The World's Most Creative Women: Renu Hanegreefs-Snehi, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

Renu Hanegreefs-Snehi, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

In a continuing drive for greater diversity and inclusion in marketing and advertising, a new feature by The Drum highlights conversations with top creative women in the industry.

All were nominated for The Drum’s global Woman of the Year award at The Drum Creative Awards, sponsored by Facebook, One Minute Briefs and in partnership with Creative Equals. The award is designed to push equality boundaries within the creative industry to spark discussion and action.

From icons and pioneers to prominent creative directors and designers, we asked each of them how diversity creates better work, the positive changes the industry can make, what keeps these creatives going in an ever-changing world and how greater diversity can grow the business.

Leading into the new year, this series will reveal more of The Drum's global Woman of the Year award nominees.

Today, we speak with vice president of corporate communications at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group in Brussels.

From your experience and point of view, how does a more diverse creative team create better work? What have been some examples of that in action?

I am a passionate advocate of diversity – especially of diversity in leadership – both in Carlson Rezidor and throughout the hospitality industry in general. I believe that talent and attitude must always win over gender, race, religion/cultural background or sexual orientation. This absolute commitment to diversity is what defines me and my purpose in life – professionally and personally.

My own early experiences drove me to make this my cause. My story is a simple one, but I hope it may inspire some young women to dare to dream big. I was born in New Delhi, India to a middle class family at a time when equality for women was not even on the agenda. But I wanted my own voice and I wanted to make a real contribution. So I went against the grain and focused on my career at a young age, despite social pressures to focus on marriage. It wasn’t easy.

But I’ve now been working for more than 20 years and all my professional – and personal – experiences show me that every team, organization and society benefits and thrives when its members are treated with equal respect and given equal opportunities – regardless of their race, gender or culture.

When people feel safe as part of an emotionally intelligent and open team, they can freely unleash the full power of their imagination and creativity.

How are the conversations around creativity, and specific work/projects, different with a more gender balanced team?

Conversations become multi-facetted, rather one one-dimensional. When the voice that represents half of the population is not part of the equation, there is a serious lack of insight and balance in any discussion.

A diverse team promotes more collaboration and connectedness with greater empathy and creativity. It’s simply just much more fun.

Creative conversations can’t happen in an echo chamber – we need different views, insights and opinions to arrive at something new and inspiring.

What changes around inclusion should the entire industry embrace today?

We must challenge existing thinking and look beyond the glass ceiling, always thinking like leaders – not as female or male leaders.

Men must be the champions of change – as bosses, colleagues, fathers, husbands, friends and as brothers … but women must also to come out of their shells and be more daring – not giving up when things get rough.

And every leader must build a cultural mindset that supports inclusion and diversity - with zero tolerance for unacceptable behaviour.

Inclusion starts at the top. So industry leaders and influencers must step up and lead by example. Happily, we are already seeing a big shift – with some leading lights already doing this very well. Those in positions of power must set the agenda, making diversity and inclusion their number one priority.

Within our organizations, we must all actively challenge our own – and our teams’ - inherent biases. This starts with cultivating awareness. There then needs to be follow through: changes may have to be made to the existing decision making process and systems. From recruiting, training and promoting, to day-to-day working and communicating – diversity and inclusion must be an essential part of the equation.

As creatives and communicators, we must challenge the brief according to our awareness and intuition. Our output and creations used in advertising, marketing and the media, must take diversity and inclusion into account. Fair representation is far too important an issue not to raise our voices!

Packaging and branding also really matter – perception can become reality. Companies must pay close attention to their tone of voice, their brand and employee value proposition, their visual identity and their leadership messaging.

With all of the issues women face in the creative sector, what keeps you in the industry?

I’m here because I genuinely believe – in fact I KNOW – that I can make a difference. It may be a little one … but I can do it! There are very few women in the hotel industry who are in my position - and who are advocating diversity from their very core.

To work successfully in any creative field, you need passion and respect for what you do. I truly love what I do. Effective, creative and inspiring communication – with our guests, our partners and our teams – is crucial for business success.

When we communicate well, we make magic happen. When we don’t, things can head downhill very fast. This is the everyday challenge that fuels my passion and energy.

I believe you need to have people who support you from early on in your career. I was lucky to have incredible support from the mentors who championed me. So I now make it my mission do the same for younger people in my own organization our industry in general. It’s a virtuous circle – one I that am committed to being part of.

In everything I do, I try to promote the breaking down of prejudices and barriers to communication and growth. I wholeheartedly embrace diversity and am dedicated to ensuring it flourishes within our organization and throughout our industry. I don’t just say it, I live it, I do it.

Will greater diversity in the industry ultimately save/grow it?

I believe that fostering, promoting and celebrating diversity of thought, experience, cultures and opinion is the real key to ensuring innovation and creativity in the future.

So many compelling studies now show how companies with diverse workforces significantly outperform those that do not prioritise diversity.

If we want our industries to continue to grow and evolve, if we want new ways of connecting with people – including our customers – we must have a better understanding of diversity. There needs to be more empathy. And there needs to be better representation. I don’t think there is any other option for the successful future of our industry - or for the world in which we live.

The Drum Creative Awards puts creativity back in the spotlight and flies the flag for creativity during the digital revolution. These global awards are open to advertising agencies, design consultancies, digital agencies, production companies, marketing agencies, PR and more.

To register your interest for 2018, go to the event website.

This years awards were sponsored by: Facebook Creative Shop and One Minute Brief and partnered with: Creative Equals.

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