Barrier Breaking, History Making on International Women’s Day

March 8 marks the celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD). Today’s guest post by Steffi Kordy, the VP of Sustainability for SITE Florida & Caribbean, showcases an event the chapter held in 2021 to celebrate the occasion. Even though their event took place last year, we’ve shared Steffi’s post today since it’s a great fit with the 2022 IWD theme, #BreakTheBias.

To mark International Women’s Day (IWD) in 2021, SITE Florida & Caribbean hosted a panel with two female trailblazers in the cruise industry who shattered the glass ceiling and provided an abundance of motivation and inspiration.  

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo (LLP), the first female president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, and Kate McCue (McCue), the first American captain of a mega cruise liner, fielded questions from SITE members during a panel moderated by Lisa Vogt, AVP Corporate Incentives & Charter Sales for Celebrity Cruises, and Todd Mickey, our 2021 Chapter President.

For IWD 2020, Celebrity Cruises had an all-female bridge and officer team — 26 of them to be precise! — for the first time in its history. It was an epic moment since women have traditionally been absent in top-level positions. But through a culture of inclusion, encouragement, and embracing diversity, Celebrity Cruises achieved something that, for decades, has been a male-dominated domain. This was barrier-breaking, history-making, and a day of pride. With the experienced and agile Kate McCue at the helm, it was a celebration of gender equality deserving front-page media coverage.

During the SITE Florida & Caribbean event, both women shared their very personal perspectives through a lively Q&A session about being top female leaders in the hospitality industry, gender equality in the workplace, obstacles, work-life balance, and their advice for anyone who wants to realize their dreams. We’ve shared an excerpt of the conversation and a recap of their inspirational responses here.

On how to get to the top in your career:

McCue: The peers and mentors I have had the privilege to work for and with helped push me. Start with a dream and follow it — and help others achieve their dreams when it is your turn.

LLP: I agree that mentors are important: I have had valuable advocates who helped me. Let them inspire you and push you out of your comfort zone. And when you have the chance, pay it forward. Take pride in making others successful.  

What challenges did you have to overcome?

McCue: I don’t have horror stories to tell. I look at my crew, which is made up of 65 different nationalities. We are all minorities in some ways and don’t pick at the differences, but celebrate them. I didn’t feel a lack of acceptance because my company has a culture that cultivates this kind of environment. There is a lot of respect.  

LLP: I never felt gender imbalance in my sales position but when I moved to operations, I realized that I am different. I had to be my genuine best self and be authentic to my values in order to succeed. There may not be [statistical] equality yet, but acceptance amongst your colleagues is maybe more important than looking for the perfect percentage.

Would you want an all-female bridge all the time?

McCue: I think we would be missing out on the diversity of a wonderful balance. It was an epic scenario on IWD but for a healthy environment, you want a diversified playing field. Women bring such empathy and compassion to the workplace but overall, you want an inclusive atmosphere. Everyone brings something valuable to the table.

What motivates you?

LLP: I come from a place of motivation and optimism. Just waking up, being grateful for the great industry I work in, and the wonderful people I work with every day motivates me. Walk the talk and make it happen.

MC: Every single day brings a little win, something that gets me excited. Celebrate those wins no matter how big or small!

How to juggle a heavy workload

LLP: Keep perspective to help you prioritize. Perspective keeps your life in balance, an act that changes every day. You may not manage the perfect balance every single day, but try to shuffle your priorities. And don’t take anything too seriously, including yourself or what you do for a living — because in any given minute, this might disappear.

How to juggle family with a demanding job that requires extensive travelling?

LLP: My hat goes off to every woman who juggles children and a career. Again, it comes to keeping perspective and building a great support system within your family.

McCue: My husband encourages me to take the next step. Technology makes life much easier to stay connected. Although I do not have children, I consider my crew and passengers my kids. They are my responsibility and take quite a bit of my energy, and they are worth it.

What would you say to your younger self?

LLP: Stay humble. Use your success to pay it forward to anyone who is motivated to achieve their dreams.

McCue: Be your authentic self. When I was evaluated, I was told I smile too much and that people might not take me seriously enough given the responsibility I have. After two weeks of trying to smile less, it didn’t feel right so I smiled again when I felt like it and continued to be my authentic self. It has been smooth sailing ever since!

This was a highly motivational panel discussion, the kind money can’t buy. As an audience member, I sensed that a drive for success and gratefulness is what amps up these two powerful women and their accomplishments. Looking at your own blessings will give you strength, a positive outlook and perspective to take on challenges. This comes from a place of respect and humbleness, character traits one finds among great empathetic leaders, and a lesson to be remastered every single day.

 To further underline their compassion, we should note that our speakers did not charge a fee and instead, asked our chapter to make a donation to the Seafarers House in Fort Lauderdale that provides visiting mariners with practical care and spiritual support.

If you like to see a video of the historic IWD all-female bridge, watch below:

Written by

Steffi Kordy

Steffi Kordy



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