The success story of Shaileen Shah and Mandy Rennehan in male-dominated professions
The road to success can be long and involve multiple complications and obstacles when someone strives to advance in their career. But these complications become worse when it comes to securing prominent careers in traditionally male-dominated professions.
This success story is about two women choosing their careers in entirely different professions where women leaders are rare like construction and hotel management. They pursued their goals with firm and consistent determination and perseverance to realize their career goals. Having succeeded in achieving their goals, they are now encouraging more women to set goals and initiate efforts with faith and determination to reach their full potential.
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“It was beyond financial access for me to read at trade school.” Says Mandy Rennehan of getting admission into the construction industry at the time I was a teenager. She says her prime motive was to decrease the hardships, my parents went through in their hometown of Yarmouth
“I learned quickly as I was passionately ambitious in this field,” she says, “I never felt in my life that I should not be in this profession.”
Ms. Rennehan is the CEO and founder of Freshco, a retail maintenance provider in Canada and the Eastern United States. Working on three major construction projects millwork services and maintenance clients include retail monsters like lululemon, Indigo, H&M, Restoration hardware, and Nike.
She says the first major problem she faced was her age when she started the company at the age of 19.
“I was repeatedly told, ‘you are not old enough in this profession, but I saw many young men who were offered opportunities,” Ms. Rennehan says. Working at the site, there was no such female model there, she could have looked up to. The only women I would see there were doing the books.
Observing the prevailing inefficiencies in the company, she set out to do it better. Yet even at the time when her company was flourishing, her success was still not immune to prejudices, she says.
“I remember the day when I went to purchase two new trucks for my business and salesperson questioned me about the absences of brother or husband,” She says, “I told him, I am buying two new trucks not here but by the end of the day.”
Now Rennehan has become a highly inspiring role model for women and is being idealized by other women for pursuing their higher goals and dreams. She manages and oversees internal 80% of women staff.
Establishing credibility and succeeding to go higher in hotel management was no easy feat for Shaileen Shah, general manager of The Drake Hotel in Toronto.
Women in Canada’s hotels are 60.3 percent while a fraction of those women is in management. According to the report published by the University of Massachusetts in 2020 called “ A huge gap in Canadian Hotel Operations,” only 14% of women are in executive positions.
Ms. Shah says that it was an opportunity as well as a challenge to move from Toronto to Kenya at the beginning of her career. I stepped into IT. She shares her initial experience of startup work on the internet. “The place where I worked there were all men and I was to work for endless hours, but during that time I learned everything about servers.”
She came back to Canada and took the job as financial controller in a new hotel that included more men than women in the management team which was somehow appalling for me. “My employers would not trust the information, instead looked elsewhere for reconfirmation,” she says.
Disappointed by the environment, she developed two realizations from all these situations: to learn things in a more profound way, I will have to move down, I realized to do something of great value, I will have to stand up for myself.
Back in Kenya, she applied for another management position of opening a new operation. She continued her efforts consistently and three months later she was asked to head and lead the opening of the Trademark Hotel.
“On the basis of experience and techniques I got from my previous careers, I opened a 215-room boutique hotel which continues to flourish,” she says, “it is ranked as one of the top 50 hotel bars in the world.”
“I have worked at multiple positions and locations which include beverage, food, finance, rooms, and sales. I have done it all efficiently, but still, you will be judged simply because of being a woman,” she says.