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Once a hotel line chef, now vice-president of owner and franchise services in Canada for Marriott International.

More than 30 years ago, with a degree in history and a culinary school education, I applied for a line chef position at a Marriott hotel in small-town Kentucky. I was ambitious, and knew I wanted to go far in my career.

But in the 1980s, as a woman working in a male-dominated environment, I needed tools that would help me develop as a manager and leader. I made that known to my superiors. Through mentorships, networking and leadership training, all provided by Marriott International, I grew to become responsible for 176 hotels across Canada.

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In 2007, Canada became the first country in the Western world where women outnumber men in the work force.

Yet, as Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in his 2018 federal budget announcement, women still make only 69 cents on the dollar compared with their male counterparts. What's more, 40 per cent of companies in Canada have no women in executive roles.

Marriott International is turning that number on its head with a 40-per-cent-female Canadian leadership team. This culture of equality starts at the top, as Arne Sorenson's leadership team is also 40-per-cent female. Years ago, Marriott International recognized the power of women in the work force, and in 1989, launched a Women's Leadership Development Initiative to formalize a comprehensive women's agenda under one strategic umbrella. As a result of this and several additional programs that followed, representation of women at all levels of the company has increased.

If you're smart, honest and hard-working, you can choose any career path you want. Supporting women at all levels of the organization is Marriott's utmost concern and is part of our core values as a global organization. With International Women's Day this week and 2018 as the Year of the Woman, here are some tips to help you reach your leadership goals:

Network: Surround yourself with people who inspire you. My mentors challenged me to open doors I thought were closed and when I did, great things happened. I have lots of long-lasting friendships with male and female associates who have become part of the family of great mentors that have helped me along the way. Marriott's company-wide programs – including 'evenings of engagement' and networking sessions – allow for women and minority leaders to interact with senior members and discuss leadership and career development.

Be bold: Find ways to make sure people know about your accomplishments. Marriott's Emerging Leader Program is an inclusive leadership development program to ensure the identification and development of talent.

Push yourself: Get comfortable being uncomfortable and try working in new areas that vary your abilities. As women, it's of paramount importance that we take on new roles and be unafraid. We need to have more confidence and lose the feeling that we have to be perfect – it's okay to learn as you go. Early in my career, I had the benefit of taking part in a management-training program. For a while, it led to a promotion every six to eight months. That experience put me on a path to success undergoing different training opportunities that I still take on today.

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Find a way to integrate personal and professional: A younger me, dedicated to my goals, put work ahead of my social life. That's something I've changed over the years. Embracing a work-life "integration" began the next chapter of my life in a whole new way. I was working at Marriott headquarters when I had my son. Our office had a full-service daycare that meant I was allowed to be a mother while at work. Having the opportunity to have lunch with my son in the middle of the day meant that I never missed out on the chance to have a career and be a mother. As women, we are always finding ways to keep our personal and business priorities at the forefront and we need to feel comfortable managing both together.

Be you: Be authentic. Throughout my career, I always struggled to figure out the best management style. Should I be tough, act like one of the guys, be demure? By trying to be someone I wasn't, I created my own glass ceiling. When you lead authentically, you come across as more powerful, believable and trustworthy. These are core fundamentals to good leadership and ones that changed my life and career.

These values help guide my team's business decisions and reflect the way Marriott operates as an organization. It's crucial that we, as women in power and leaders in the hospitality industry, play an active role in promoting women as leaders. It's why I feel so strongly that we must try in all areas of the workplace to promote diversity, inclusion and support for our future leaders. It helps to have supporting leaders. Don Cleary, president of our Canadian operation, helped us launch our "women supporting women" hospitality gatherings in Canada, an important part of our culture and a strong business imperative.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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