March is Women’s History Month, and a group of women at Aimbridge are making company history. On International Women’s Day on March 8, Aimbridge Women Excelling (AWE) launched as a new employee resource group for women working across all its locations in the United States and beyond. A majority of Aimbridge’s employees are women—57 percent in the corporate office and 60 percent in the field. AWE’s mission is to elevate and support those women through continuous education, skills development, and building a sense of community.
LODGING spoke with AWE Chair Keryn McNamara, senior vice president of hotel technology, and Vice Chair Emily Gerstner, vice president of philanthropic partnerships and community outreach, about the inspiration behind the group and their vision for its impact.
The idea for AWE came less than a year ago at AHLA’s annual ForWard Conference in May 2022, McNamara says. At the conference, which is focused on advancing women in hospitality, Aimbridge had a “phenomenal presence” with more than 30 women attending, McNamara recalls. The inter-company networking and conversations that happened during that event continued after the conference ended and the attendees returned home. “The week that we got back, we started reaching out to other female leaders within the organization organically and from a grassroots perspective,” McNamara explains. “We asked, ‘How would you feel if we started something new? How would you feel about lighting this fire within the Aimbridge community?’ And that was met with not only a resounding ‘yes,’ but a follow-up of, ‘How can I help? I want to be a part of this.’”
From there, they formed a committee, established a mission, chose a name—and AWE took off. McNamara explains the thinking behind the name, particularly the ambiguity of the letter “e” in the group’s marketing. “Yes, it’s ‘Aimbridge Women Excelling,’ but it could be ‘Aimbridge Women Empowered’ or ‘Aimbridge Women Elevated,’” she points out. “We really hope people use and explore that ‘e’ on their own. That creativity is something we’re looking to harness in our community.”
Engaging people throughout the company at all levels is central to AWE’s mission, Gerstner says. “Our vision is that this is something that everybody in the organization can be a part of—not just the corporate office.” Whether a part-time hotel associate or a full-time leader in the corporate office, Gerstner says AWE’s efforts will be tailored to each of its audiences and be inclusive of all associates globally. “We want to be a place where our female associates can find friendship, mentorship, and learning opportunities, and also a place where men in our company can show their support for women as well.”
Development and connection are AWE’s core pillars, McNamara adds. “In our day-to-day world, we really only work with a small group of men and women. How can I, in technology, get out of that bubble and really connect with someone in our business development team or someone in accounting, and how can we leverage those connections to build a stronger community?”
To forge those connections, Gerstner says AWE will have a presence at company conferences as well as in the field and is planning future events and initiatives, including launching a mentorship program. McNamara notes the AWE committee will continue to listen to the Aimbridge community and incorporate their ideas moving forward. She expects the group will serve as a framework for others in the future.
“Aimbridge is a leader in the hospitality industry, and for us to show how important women are to our organization and the investment that we’re making in women is incredibly important,” Gerstner says. “This is something that we hope really sets a new industry standard in terms of how to engage, elevate, excite, and empower women—not only in the industry but in society as a whole.”