On International Women’s Day Disney Honors Women Helping To Shape Company’s Future
Happy International Women’s Day Disney friends! What better way to celebrate then by honoring some of the incredible women that are helping to shape Disney’s future! Take a look at a handful of these awesome risk takers and innovators that are pushing boundaries and bringing the magic to Disney!
Jill Chen – Executive Director & General Manager, Direct to Consumer Retail, Greater China & Korea
In her current role Jill supervises a team that supports Disney Store, shopDisney as well as Consumer Products, Games and Publishing ecommerce. “Having a direct relationship with our consumer is an important part of Disney’s strategy,” Jill said. One of the challenges to her roll is anticipating the shifts in today’s economy and the impact that will have on consumers. I’m focused on expanding shopDisney in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, creating a one-stop shopping destination, putting our guests at the center of everything we do, and staying focused on what we do best – telling stories through products and experiences that resonate with our guests.” An awesome example of this is a partnership between Disney and Tan Yuan Yuan an internationally renowned ballerina which saw a Sparkling Minnie Collection at stores in stores in China!
So what’s Jill’s motto? “You only live once and life is not a dress rehearsal.” She continues, “You are responsible for driving your journey forward and spending your life on something that make sense to you. Once you find yourself satisfied with the status quo, take that as a sign to move onto the next stage of growth in your life. If you adopt this attitude you will constantly develop new goals and new challenges, which can invigorate your creativity and passion for life.”
Lesley Kay Combs – Sr. Manager, Trip Operations, Land & Cruise
How amazing is it that a day at the office of Lesley consists of scouting locations in Antarctica!? As part of the Adventures & Expeditions team, Lesley gets to travel, plan and confirm the logistics of Adventures By Disney getaways. Disney’s guided touring company is known for their impeccable service and hassle free vacations which is due large and in part to cast members like Lesley working behind the scenes to make sure every element of an itinerary is just right.
Recently Disney announced that they will be adding Antarctica to their list of destinations. Lesley said of building the destination, “Our vision remains the same – to create a lifetime of memories for guests and travelers as they venture to destinations around the world with Adventures by Disney or National Geographic Expeditions. We never get too comfortable with our itineraries. Our teams dive into every aspect of our business and constantly looks for ways to improve our guest experience.”
So what’s Lesley’s advice for women just entering the work force? “Take chances or risks,” said Lesley. “You face may the fear of uncertainty, but regardless of the outcome, you will grow, become more confident and resilient.” And this last piece of advice is sure to resonate with you no matter what age or stage of your career you are in. Lesley advises, . “Kindness and being helpful are like a boomerang. They always come back to you. I’ve always been told that people who give of themselves tend to be healthier and happier!”
Barbara Bouza – President, Walt Disney Imagineering Business Operations, Design & Delivery
Barbara leads Imagineering’s team of designers, architects and engineers that are responsible for building theme parks, cruise ships, resorts and more! Make strides in the field was no easy feat. As Barbara highlights, “Women represent only 17-18 percent of licensed architects in the United States, and for African-American women, the number is even smaller, about 0.4 percent—not even one percent of the profession.” However, Disney is changing that.as Bouza says, “At Disney, I’m surrounded by incredibly gifted women, many in senior leadership roles across all disciplines, and the opportunities here seem unlimited.”
For Bouza, its important for companies like Disney to push boundaries and break new ground. She says, “I see it as my responsibility to nurture that spirit, while also fostering an environment where people feel empowered to take risks and challenge norms.” Barbara continues,. “More importantly, we have to keep a constant focus on our people and their needs. What we do for a living is about creating that ultimate guest experience, and to truly transform the business, we need to make sure our people are healthy and thriving.”
Gina McCarter, Senior Project Manager, Digital Experience, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products
Gina is a Senior Project Manager at Disney where she helps bring exciting new technology to the guest experience. Her work involves developing more intelligent products that create better stories and create more interactive experiences. “I am extremely proud to be a part of the Connected Products organization,” Gina said. “We are driving the business forward by forging new partnerships and evolving our technology to unlock a new dimension of the Disney Parks and Resorts experience.”
Though Gina finds herself in a field that is traditionally male, she attributes her position to being willing to push boundaries and take risks. “That willingness to try something new, to share my point of view or ask for help has allowed me to be more confident and develop a solid network of people who support me.” But what if the decisions don’t prove to be the best ones in the end? Gina has helpful works of advice saying, “If it doesn’t work out as you had hoped, try something new. Don’t quit if you set down a path that isn’t what you thought it would be, just change direction.”
Gina also highlights the importance of having a mentor who can help you in your career growth. “My mentor, Nathan Leader, provides regular and candid feedback on my performance, and always leaves me feeling inspired, capable and knowing that I have a champion in my corner ready to support my success,” said Gina.
Andrae Gill – Senior Manager, Event Programming/Production, Disneyland Resort
Despite Disneyland’s length closure, Adrae Gill and her team created the new A Touch of Disney experience at Disney California Adventure Park, which opens March 18 and allows guests with the opportunity to again experience the park though under slightly different circumstances. The limited capacity, ticketed event allows guests to experience many of the things they might be missing about a Disneyland park visit while enjoying flavors from around the resort!
“It’s not the same world we were in a year ago,” Andrae said. “We are testing something today that works in a COVID-19 world, but that could also inform events in the future.” Andrea also highlights the important in making sure that teams developing new projects are inclusive. “I try to call out when there is a blatant ‘miss’ of a group not represented,” Andrae said. “It’s important to bring partners in early, to have a voice at the table. What I envision as the perfect event might not be someone else’s vision. We need those different perspectives to bring Disney magic to life.”
What advice would Andrae give to her younger self? “You are enough. What you bring to the table is enough. Don’t try to be anyone else.” Another mantra of hers comes from the live-action Cinderella film, Have courage and be kind.” She says advising that people will always remember how you made them feel.
Dr. Pamela Hymel – Chief Medical Officer, Disney Parks, Experiences & Products
If you’ve been following along with MickeyBlog throughout the pandemic then chances are you’ve seen Dr. Pam Hymel sharing her medical expertise and enhancing our understanding of Health & Safety practices at the parks. “I’ve focused on understanding the science of COVID-19 and collaborated with our business leaders to integrate the medical science with our operational plans and health and safety protocols, as well as worked with local, state and national health care agencies on reopening our businesses,” said Dr. Pam
She marks among her current projects educating cast on the importance of getting vaccinated and supporting them as many additional aspects of operations start to resume. Dr Hymel knows firsthand the impact these uncertain times have had on everyone, “When I see some of our cast juggling taking care of parents who become ill, helping children who are in virtual classrooms and being on zoom calls, I am amazed at how much they all have had to take on.” She continues,. “Allowing flexibility in work schedules and meeting attendance is something we can all do for each other. I have had many calls with team members with toddlers on their laps and I have certainly contributed my share of cat sightings on my zoom calls. Encouraging women and men to take time for themselves is important for us as leaders.”
Yasmin Kouchouk – Director, Digital Experience, Disneyland Paris
Yasmin was born and raised in the Middle East where gender inequality was the norm. “When I joined Disney, I remember being in awe at the various diversity chats, champions and committees,” she said. “Seventeen years later, as a woman in Technology and Digital, I’m grateful of Disney’s continued focus. I’ve learned that it takes constant work to make progress, and that everyone is responsible for bringing about this change.”
One of Yasmin’s current projects is looking at ways to enhance the Disneyland Paris mobile able to provide a more seamless guest experience. This includes adding features like Stand-by passes or online check-in. “I constantly remind myself of Sir Richard Branson’s quote ‘Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.” Yasmin continues, “Such a powerful message whenever I feel we are overly complicating a product or experience. Our guests are on vacation, our digital tools should enhance and simplify their experience, not add frustration! Simplifying the experience is not easy, but the challenge is what makes it interesting and fun.”
As part of Women’s History Month we here at MickeyBlog salute all these incredible women and the thousands of other female cast members who make every day magic!
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