A Top Female CEO on the Importance of Building Women Up


And how to get yourself up that ladder, too.

Love heart on a sidewalk and the legs of a woman

English-born, South African-raised and all-powerful female CEO Rachel Argaman oversees the Australian headquartered hotel group TFE (or Toga Far East) with as much technical prowess as she does heart and compassion.

Since 2007, the amalgamated hotel group has been under Rachel’s guidance. A visionary of the travel industry worldwide, she originally set her sites on a vastly different career trajectory, but landed working as a marketing manager for a South African car rental company after being inspired by a female leader in the firm. Drawn to the energy, passion for life and will to explore, Rachel was convinced that the industry in which “no two days are the same” was for her.

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When asked what other women can do to reach great heights, Rachel looks to the importance of merit-based workplaces and the value of responsibility.

You get the responsibility you take on

“I believe strongly that to climb the ladder, people – regardless of gender – should volunteer for responsibility. I always say that in life and at work, one gets the responsibility one takes on. So, if there is a job to be done or a task that needs doing, volunteer to do it, learn about how to do it, and before you know it you are growing your skills and leadership talents.”

Gender parity must be consciously chased

At TFE, they proudly boast consistent gender parity within their management team. “At any one stage, our management team has either 51% women and 49% men or vice versa.” Rachel owes this to “consciously” appointing on merit and disregarding gender as a factor in the employment and promotion process.

That said, Rachel recognises that gaps still exist. “In Europe, when we were first recruiting for a Director of Operations, the recruitment company only supplied male candidates. When we queried it… we were told that ‘it doesn’t work to have women in management in Germany as they have child-rearing commitments that are too onerous’.”

“One of the greatest challenges, is that women get three years of maternity leave in Germany and companies have to keep their jobs open for them. Some companies are very reluctant to do that.”

Startled by this, Rachel and her team requested to see female candidates. Whilst the first DOO to be appointed was male, today, TFE can proudly state that female hotel managers make up the majority of hires.

“One of the greatest challenges, is that women get three years of maternity leave in Germany and companies have to keep their jobs open for them. Some companies are very reluctant to do that.” For Rachel, it’s about balance. “Great talent continues to perform and, when facilitated, those people can and do continue to do the great job and work that they love.”

Seed a successful culture by hiring internally

On good governance and leadership culture, Rachel says, “Leadership and growing the team for a growing company is important for us. We believe in promoting from within, so 70 per cent of our roles are filled internally. This enables us to continue to seed our successful culture which is based on the belief that ‘companies don’t succeed, people do’.”

“Love it, change it, or leave it! If you aren’t loving what you do, life is too short not to change the circumstances.”

Rachel also sees successful relationships at the core of successful business. “I am blessed with many friends and colleagues in business who I catch-up with regularly and can always call on for advice. Those people are also a great source of referral when we are looking for talent or a great speaker or facilitator or a particular skill. If you remember that all relationships are two-way and you need to give as well as take, you will build a strong network of people willing to help you – at the end of the day, people do business with people they like.”

Should I stay or should I go?

For personal success and advice for rising stars, Rachel has choice words. “Love it, change it, or leave it! If you aren’t loving what you do, life is too short not to change the circumstances. If you are unable to or don’t love what you are doing, then leave it and do something that engages your passion,” she says.

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I’m from Vienna / Austria – I’ve worked as a marketing manager in Austria and am currently working as a trade marketing manager in Germany for a big fashion company. It is true that women and men are treated differently… at least when they start to apply for higher management roles. It is not true that we get 3 years of maternity leave. We are verly lucky that we are able to get one year of maternity leave where we get paid about 80% of our normal wage. We have the possibilty to stretch that leave to two years but we don’t get paid in the second year,… eventhough we can divide the money from the first year into two years, which doesn’t leave us with a lot of money….so two years are the maximum… everything after that is unpaid leave. So after the first or second year the company doesn’t have to pay two people (the mother and the employee who fills in the place until maternity leave is over) but only the new employee.

When we reach the age of 30 it is harder to get a job because companies automatically think of the “danger” of the employee getting pregnant… which is a very unfair behaviour towards young women. If you look at the fashion industry or beauty industry in Germany: you will have 70-80% female employees in these companies BUT the top positions: CEOs, department heads etc are 80% filled with males… To be honest, I thought it’s the same in Australia…


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