March is Women’s History Month and we’re here to celebrate the achievements of women—socially, economically, culturally and politically—and continue to push for gender equality. While Women’s History Month was first declared in 1981, International Women’s Day had its origins in 1911 alongside the suffrage movement. Falling on March 8, this year’s theme is “Let’s all choose to challenge.” We caught up with our own Clio Knowles, Chief People Person for Virgin Hotels to talk about how we’re challenging diversity, equity and inclusion norms and what Women’s History Month means to her.
Q: How does Virgin Hotels approach representation?
Clio: As a company expanding internationally and part of a larger, global brand, we have teammates from all backgrounds and nationalities. We work hard to ensure that our teammates represent the demographic make-up of the cities we are in by reaching out to underserved applicants and advertising in local community papers to reach a broader audience. We make sure our teammates are all treated with dignity and respect. We believe that both our guests and teammates should reflect the world around us.
Q: Do you think travel plays a role in breaking down barriers and prejudices?
Clio: Without a doubt. You can’t spend time in other countries and with other cultures and maintain the same prejudices that you are raised with. I was born in the Bahamas and my mother is of English origins. I was lucky enough to attend an international boarding school for the last two years of high school. When you are sitting at lunch with classmates from Israel, Palestine, Ghana and Pakistan, it becomes very obvious that there is far more to the world than many people realize and that every viewpoint and culture has value. Travel is one of the joys of my life.
Q: What does Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day mean to you personally?
Clio: My mother didn’t have the opportunities that I did, so I am grateful every day for her encouragement and belief in me. No matter what crazy idea I had, she supported me, including backpacking around Australia and Southeast Asia for a year by myself.
There are still far too many days when I sit in a room and I am the only female present. Women still have to fight to have a seat at the table at senior levels. Being caring is often presented as a negative, but my care and passion is part of what brings me to work every day. You can be a strong, innovative leader and still care for people.
Q: Tell us about a female role model who inspires you.
Clio: My friend Hoda Tahoun is of Egyptian origin and she’s worked her way through the senior levels of the male-dominated world of recruiting. In her spare time, she’s also a Reiki teacher. She inspires me daily to practice better self-care and that it’s possible to succeed in a male-dominated industry.
Q: Speaking of self-care, what are your rituals?
Clio: I love exercising outdoors. I always make sure I pack my running gear and go for a run in the cities I visit. It’s a great way to get to know a new place. I also bike, kayak and ski. These are the moments when my best ideas come to me—that mental clarity is invaluable.
Written by: Shayne Benowitz