Barbara Bowden, Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando
Tell me a little bit about your background personally and professionally.
Originally from St Louis, Missouri, I have loved being part of our Central Florida Hospitality Community for 38 years. I am currently serving as Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando, overseeing the operation of the destination’s premier and preferred hotels, including Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Prior to my current position, I was recruited to a front desk position at The Peabody Orlando in 1986, where I served in various roles for 27 years, ultimately as VP/GM. I am passionate about our industry and the organizations that support it. In addition to FRLA, I serve on several community industry boards including Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, Visit Orlando and UCF Rosen College.
One of the best rewards of my career was meeting my husband David when we worked together at The Buena Vista Palace 38 years ago. He is the love of my life and true partner. We have always worked together to balance family and career. We have two married children who are both living in Orlando-along with our first grandbaby-and we are so incredibly grateful to have our family close. We also have a new addition to the family: our 5-month-old Golden Retriever-Sophie.
How did being a woman affect your professional path/path to leadership?
I am fortunate that I have always worked for organizations that value inclusiveness. I have worked for organizations where I have had incredible support and mentors, both male and female. There have been times in my career, I have felt like I had to work harder than my male counterparts-particularly as a young working mother. However, I have also learned that hard work, passion and commitment does lead to success-male or female-so I am grateful for the journey I had. Overall, any challenges placed before me created a greater resolve to pave the way for others.
How did you get into hospitality?
I always dreamed of having a career in the hospitality industry. My first job in high school was at Six Flags St. Louis, where I learned the core value of the term ‘hospitality.’ I went on to study hospitality and business at Missouri State University. My freshman year I was recruited by Walt Disney World to participate in, what was called at the time, the ‘Magic Kingdom College Program.’ I spent the summer in Orlando-and fell in love with the hospitality community here. I saw terrific opportunity for a career path, and upon graduation, I immediately returned to Orlando to begin the journey.
How do women positively impact Florida’s hospitality industry?
In my experience, diverse teams are the most effective teams. Additionally, studies show that women make the majority of all travel decisions-some studies indicating up to 85%. So, it certainly benefits an organization to have women involved in decisions impacting travel and hospitality.
What qualities make a great female leader?
The same qualities of any great leader: Vision, Strategic thinking, interpersonal communication, empathy, creativity, and trustworthiness.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Many women throughout history have paved the way for those of us in leadership roles today. More importantly, though, it is critical to continue forging forward so those coming in behind us can rise to even greater achievement.
Is there a woman from history or your life who you admire? Why?
My mother, Shirley Ducey. I was raised by a single working mother who valued hard work, integrity, resolve and never let her four daughters believe in limitations. She taught us that we could do anything we put our hearts into if we worked hard. She was a servant leader and directed a large non-profit organization, impacting thousands of lives over 3 decades. From her, I learned the values of passion and commitment.
Why is it important for more women to be recognized in leadership roles?
It is important to tell the stories of women leaders to inspire other women and encourage them to use their talents to their fullest potential. These stories illuminate what is possible for any aspiring woman seeking a leadership role.
What piece of advice would you give to women coming up in hospitality?
Love what you do, trust who you are, surround yourself with a strong, inspiring network and help others along the way. The hospitality industry holds countless opportunities for those women entering this field that have the desire to succeed.