Marriott Hotels was again named one of Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s “Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises,” just ahead of International Women’s Day yesterday. The annual list recognizes companies with a proven track record for providing opportunities for female business owners. In 2014, Marriott spent $223 million with over 4,000 women-owned businesses globally. The hotel company is also creating unique initiatives designed to drive business to women-owned companies throughout the hotel supply chain, with the goal of empowering more future female entrepreneurs. For example, Marriott teamed up with the Vital Voices Global Partnership to create the JW Voices for Women program, which debuted in January at JW Marriott Mexico City. Female business leaders from around Mexico gathered to celebrate the partnership, designed to advance opportunities for women in Mexico and globally through mentoring. The goal is to empower JW Marriott’s high-performing female hotel leaders to engage with women-owned, in-market stakeholders. “Marriott’s co-founders were J.W. and Alice Marriott, a husband-wife team who ran a root beer stand in Washington DC in 1927,” says Mitzi Gaskins, VP & global brand manager for JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts. “Alice was our first chef and accountant, so women have always been at the heart of our business. As a global hospitality brand, we are welcoming to all people, and a culture of diversity and inclusion is in our DNA.” The Marriott/Vital Voices collaboration and others like it stem from Hillary Clinton’s push for multi-national companies to support more international women-owned businesses. Mrs. Clinton officially established her call to action in 2013 when she developed a five-year Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment to invest more funds in, and advocate for, companies owned and operated by women. “The JW Voices for Women program will provide unique opportunities for women entrepreneurs and business leaders in countries like Mexico, where the full participation of women in the workforce is crucial to achieving sustainable economic growth,” Clinton asserted in a letter shared at the kick-off event. Marriott and more than a dozen global corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly in emerging economies, joined the CGI commitment in 2013. Working closely with WEConnect International and Vital Voices, Marriott has invested more than $20 million to date with women-owned businesses outside the United States, and trained more than 150 women business owners. In the two years since joining Mrs. Clinton’s efforts, the company has created new business relationships with a number of women-owned businesses globally, including:
- In the Americas, the latest addition to the Marriott Hotels portfolio, the Marriott Port-au-Prince in Haiti, has contracted with a woman-owned business Ayiti Natives, Co which will now supply retail amenities for the hotel.
- In Asia, Marriott spent over $1 million with women-owned suppliers in 2014. More than twenty hotels in China now source beef from Yanbian Livestock in Jilin Province, China, a women-owned business with whom the company has been working with for four years.
- In Europe, Marriott identified a partnership with Simpsons Tea. Through mentorship from the Marriott team, Simpsons Tea launched an innovative new tea line, which was then presented to buyers at a Marriott-sponsored event, resulting in opportunities with hotels across the region.
- The acquisition of Protea Hotels has also provided an opportunity to start engaging in discussions with women-owned business in Africa.