We’re celebrating Women’s Leadership by recognizing some of the East Coast Chapter’s female hospitality industry’s leaders. From entrepreneurs to higher education, we’re grateful to be surrounded by strong women, guiding the way for the future of hospitality and equality in the workforce.
We sat down with Dr. Lisa Cain, an Associate Professor in the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Florida International University, where she teaches Women in Hospitality Leadership, Global Issues & Competitive Methods, and Marketing Management. We had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Cain during a past ILHA webinar, Future of Investment in Hospitality, where she acted as moderator.
Dr. Cain received her doctoral degree in hospitality from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and her Master’s degree from Florida International University in Hospitality Management. Her research interests emphasize understanding internal and external customer experiences in the hospitality industry. She has helped secure over $300,000 in grant funding, co-authored two textbooks, published over 50 peer-reviewed articles, and received an FIU Top Scholar Award in 2021.
What woman/women do you admire the most and why?
I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by strong women since birth, from my great-grandmother down to my cousin. My mother has worked in events and catering since before I was born, and she worked 100+ hour weeks while raising me and my brother. Her work ethic is unparalleled, and she inspires me every day. I have also been privileged enough to have attended a women’s college, had incredible female mentors, and I continue to be surrounded by extraordinary women in my field.
Has being a female in a male-dominated space posed any challenges for you through your career? If so, how did you overcome them?
If there have been roadblocks in my career path due to my gender, I have not been privy to them. I attribute this to the education I was afforded, my strong support system, the thoughtful guidance from and trust in my mentors, and the perspective that I am in control of the narrative of my life and the subsequent outcomes. But I also recognize the privilege of my circumstances, as I have witnessed individuals being overlooked because of their gender. As an industry, we have to work to find ways to overcome individual biases and organizational policies and practices that inhibit career advancement for women.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
My proudest achievement is the nurturing and supportive family that I have created with my husband Christopher. We have been blessed with two extraordinary children, Henry and Juliet, and the environment we have created enables me to show them that it is possible to pursue personal and professional goals when you have a strong support system in place.
What will be the biggest challenges for the next generation of female leaders in hospitality and how do you overcome them?
For women in a corporate setting, the greatest challenge will be balancing work and life goals. The corporate ladder has a broken rung that makes it challenging for women to attain entry-level managerial positions, which then stifles their ability to rise to senior-level positions in the organization. This phenomenon is further exacerbated if they also wish to start a family. There needs to be a policy and mindset shift in order to fix that rung.
What is the most important message you want to share with women just starting out or looking to grow their career in hospitality?
Apply for the job that seems like it’s a stretch. Statistics have shown that women will not apply for a job unless they meet 9 or 10 out of 10 criteria for a job. Those same statistics show that men will apply if they meet only 3 of those criteria.
Lastly, why hospitality?
The hospitality industry is high-energy, fast-paced, exciting, and allows you to meet individuals from all over the world. It is so multi-faceted that there is literally a position for everyone in this industry.
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