In a city known for being the world leader on social matters, it should be no surprise that W San Francisco’s general manager, Amy Arbuckle, is closing the gender equity gap in hotel leadership. Hospitality remains an industry where management often looks as male-dominated as it traditionally has, but this popular South of Market (SoMa) hotel has never been one to play by the rules, and it starts at the top.
One of her first moves upon taking the helm at W San Francisco? Bringing on an all-female executive staff, a first in Arbuckle’s 25-year career in hospitality. “I will never forget the first executive committee meeting,” she says recalling looking around the table and seeing only women. “It gives me chills right now.”
From that first meeting, Arbuckle noticed a different dynamic than what she’d experienced. “It was the most collaborative and interactive executive committee meeting team I ever had.” Arbuckle felt free from the gender-based biases plaguing women in professional settings across industries, like being spoken over or ignored entirely. Creating a safe space, Arbuckle and the team openly contribute.
Fostering diversity and inclusion is a shared value of Arbuckle and W Hotels’s parent company Marriott. The brand’s commitment runs deep—their management staff is made up of at least 50% women—laying the foundation for the W San Francisco to do the same and better. W Hotels also has a longstanding What She Said initiative, a platform inviting women to the stage to tell their stories. Each W determines their own theme relevant to their individual destination: in San Francisco, expect delectable programming on women from the Bay Area’s culinary scene.
Presently, the leadership team includes men, a shift from Arbuckle’s initial selection but one which generated a culture rooted in honoring the contributions of all staff members. “It established what we want in this building, which is that everyone has a voice,” Arbuckle explains. “Everyone has something to add, everyone has a different lens, and we want to hear everyone's story.”
Designing an environment in which staff feel empowered to share their thoughts and ideas has proven to be a successful management technique, benefiting the guests as well. “When you have an executive team that is open, inclusive, and collaborative, it allows you to connect with the guests in a very authentic way,” Arbuckle says.
That sense of connection is inherent to W San Francisco, and can be found in the lobby’s Living Room Bar. Lit up with playful pink and blue lights, the open space was designed as an extension of the rooms and suites so that guests can more easily meet. This is especially in line with the hotel’s location adjacent to the Moscone Center, where major conventions and gatherings are held frequently. Of course, it’s not only convention-goers that find themselves mingling here: locals love the vibrant atmosphere and artfully-crafted cocktails, too (don’t sleep on the Mission Paloma).
With Amy Arbuckle leading the charge at W San Francisco, visitors to the City by the Bay can expect a vibrant welcome, a high level of service, and the satisfaction of being part of the force moving the needle on gender equity. Even if guests stay elsewhere, Arbuckle is actively engaged in ensuring everyone experiences the warmth of San Francisco hospitality (which given the coolish climate, we advise you don’t forget to bring a light jacket).
Hero image: © W San Francisco