Interview with Marriott's Peggy Fang Roe

International Women’s Day may be over but there's still more to be done. We talk to Peggy Fang Roe from Marriott about the Women in Leadership conference and more.

BY Wayne Cheong | Mar 13, 2018 | Feature

International Women’s Day may be over but for Peggy Fang Roe, the current Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Marriott International in Asia Pacific, the task of getting a fair deal for women continues. We talk to Fang Roe about Marriott’s Women in Leadership programme and what more can be done for women.


You've interacted with a lot of people through the Women in Leadership programme, was there anybody that stood out to you?

I was most inspired by the women I met at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh (AUW). Most of these women are from emerging markets where it’s assumed women will not get an education. They are the first in their families to [attend] college and are incredibly passionate about changing the world. Many came to college from jobs in garment factories and I was so amazed to see how incredibly focused, articulate and outspoken they are. I can’t wait to see what these women will achieve in the future. 


What has Marriott International done to make it a conducive environment for women to flourish in?

Championing women and empowering their leadership isn’t just good business, it’s smart business. Diversity makes us more capable, competitive and strategic. Including women in our leadership is part of our growth strategy, and this has been the case since Alice S Marriott co-founded Marriott in 1927. We are taking bold actions to help women fulfil their potential.

For example, Marriott established a Women’s Leadership Development Initiative (WLDI) in 1999 which is dedicated to developing and celebrating everyone’s unique contributions to our company through mutual cooperation and teamwork. WLDI is alive and well today with a strategy intended to increase the presence of women in the highest level of management and in other key decision-making positions; improve the career development process at Marriott; develop a role for senior management to ensure that women progress; and capitalize on the supply of women leaders currently available to drive the success of the organisation.

The Asia Pacific team worked together to found our Women Leadership Committee in 2014, which is dedicated to organizing the annual Women In Leadership (WIL) conference and other WIL initiatives throughout the year. This annual WIL conference is part of Marriott’s longstanding goal of bringing women and men together in Asia to share experiences, challenge thinking and inspire each other to achieve their goals and aspirations—whatever they may be. This helps to reinforce the company’s long-standing goal of helping women assume leadership roles, which is integral to our strategy for growth and success.

We are glad to partner with Asian University for Women (AUW) to help the next generation of women leaders achieve their full potential. Marriott International has pledged to support a total of 100 students at the Asian University for Women over two years by providing mentorships, internships, fundraising scholarship and jobs. Marriott International properties across Asia Pacific also educate guests in-room about AUW and its mission, inviting them to contribute towards its future.

Alongside these two initiatives, the East China Female Leaders Aspiration Programme which is a one-year mentoring scheme grows and inspires women executives; while Marriott’s Market Ambassadors program encourages associates across 11 countries in Asia Pacific to design their own local Women in Leadership initiatives.

At Marriott, women hold nearly 36% of Board of Directors positions. Asia Pacific has a critical mass of women in leadership roles across corporate teams as well as our hotel functions.


What else can be done to level the playing field for women today?

As the world’s largest hotel company, it’s more important than ever that we at Marriott lead the industry and encourage more women to take on leadership roles. Women are vital to the hospitality industry both as associates within our organization and as consumers who are key travel decision-makers. As a company, we believe that equal opportunity and balanced leadership create the most effective and successful teams. We welcome many other industries to join us in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.


Do you think it's better for women now?

During my career I have witnessed enormous progress, and Marriott International is a great example of that.

Approximately one in six of Marriott International’s General Managers are female and in 2017 alone, the number of women in General Manager positions grew by 22% in Asia-Pacific. There is a strong pipeline of future women General Managers and we will continue our efforts in driving initiatives to help women leaders and associates in the workplace.

But a lot of work remains—there is still a big gender gap across different industries in Asia Pacific, and women hold just one in eight seats on the boards of Asia’s largest public companies. We should be encouraged by recent progress but not complacent about the challenges ahead!