Melanie Glenn answers the phone from sunny San Diego, where she relocated in 2021 to become Marriott Coronado Island Resort and Spa’s director of engineering. While the temperate climate has been something of an adjustment for the born-and-raised New Yorker, Glenn’s an industry veteran when it comes to hospitality, engineering, and especially Marriott.
The director got her start with the multinational hotel company back in 2006, working in maintenance and housekeeping, shifting from property to property across North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and finally the West Coast, ascending the corporate ladder along the way.
With a 16-year tenure, it’s a safe assumption that Glenn feels right at home. But it’s not just the familiarity of a role where everyone knows your name, or the excitement of being the one who keeps the lights on at destination hotspots. Glenn makes it clear that at Marriott, hospitality isn’t just business—it’s personal.
In the summer of 2015, the US Supreme Court officially legalized same-gender marriage in all 50 states. A few weeks prior, Marriott hosted the first same-gender marriage ever officiated at the Washington, DC, Capital Pride Parade, which the company also sponsored. Marriott has a history of being early to the party. “Back in 2006 when I joined, it was already recognizing same-sex marriage, relationships, and partners where you can get [insurance] benefits,” elaborates Glenn, who adds that most companies globally weren’t recognizing such partnerships at that time.
Glenn, who married her wife Nicole in the 1990s in New York with a domestic partnership license, notes that she was touched by this mindset and felt a sense of belonging right away and was inspired to join the company’s inclusivity initiative, ONE Marriott, of which she is now a chairperson. “It was created in Washington, DC, by a couple of leaders at one of our properties who saw an opportunity to really anchor in diversity,” Glenn explains. “[CEO] Arnie Sorenson who passed away [in 2021] joined forces, and he was very big on it. Marriott is extremely vocal about diversity and family and taking care of all our employees.”
“Every property welcomes you. There’re no side glances,” she continues. “It’s always open arms welcoming you for the person that you are. [They said,] ‘We hired you because of your experience and your skills. We don’t care about your sexual orientation, who you’re married to, who you’re not married to. We didn’t care about any of that.’”
The Core of the Job
MELANIE GLENN: What’s hospitality? We’re out here, we’re taking the folks, we’re greeting people. It’s a very personal career. You have to be a personable person to work in a personable career. Diversity is the same way—we have to open our minds, open our thinking, and really look at the world and stop being closed-minded and having tunnel vision. I think back to when I was a child. We went to the playground and played with everybody. It didn’t matter their color [or who they were.] Everybody was accepted for who they are. Could you shoot that basketball? Do you know how to roll that ball? That was all that mattered.
And that’s the same thing with ONE Marriott. Everybody is included. Hospitality is the same thing. You just have to be comfortable with who you are as a person speaking and inviting.
Be Ready to Help
GLENN: [In the LGBT community,] there’s a lot of abuse when it comes to youth because [some] parents don’t want to accept their children for who they really are. They put them out [on the street,] so there’s a large population of youth homelessness in the LGBT world, and [with ONE Marriott], we do our best to coach them, guide them, give them a place to stay, and just help them know that this is not [their] fault; this is just the way of life. Some people take a bit longer to get there than others.
While none of the other chapters really homed in on the youth, the New York City chapter [that I chaired] really dug down deep, getting into the community, reaching out to these youth, going to high schools, and speaking when they have career days.
I had family support my whole entire life. It was, “Mom, Dad, Grandma, this is what it is.” And [they said,] “If you’re happy, we’re happy.” But everybody doesn’t have that. So that’s why I [got] involved—to try to help people that didn’t have that help and support, to show them that it’s OK; they can have that now.
Meet Them Where They Are
An integral part of hospitality is providing guests with a safe and welcoming space, and that begins with allowing them room to be themselves and validating those identities. In 2014, Marriott launched its #LoveTravels campaign, supporting inclusion, equality, and acceptance. Not only does the initiative seek to bring awareness of the discrimination that the LGBTQ community faces, especially as it pertains to housing and tourism, but also to give a platform to speakers and activists who are actively working to break down barriers and create change in the travel industry.
GLENN: Just because we [members of the LGBTQ community] are different doesn’t mean we can’t travel and stay at hotels like everybody else. And [within] the transgender community, [sometimes] their IDs don’t necessarily match the way they look now. They were getting a lot of pushback, [being told], “I can’t check you in because your credit card and ID don’t match.” [I ask,] “Why can’t you check them in if they have a credit card?”
That was a learning curve for [companies] as a whole. We did a lot of training and just showing people how to be empathetic because you don’t know what this person is going through in order to do something like that, to go through this whole transformation. You don’t want to be going to a hotel, standing there, and being grilled by somebody because [of] something as small as a name. Look at the person. If the credit card and the ID are somewhat similar, check them in and let them go about their way.
You can check into a hotel [as young as] 18, so a young person could be going through that transition and getting grilled [about their identity]. So, you have the fact that your family didn’t give you that support, that love, that nourishment that you needed. And now you’re standing in a lobby with all of these other people, and you’re trying to check in, and somebody’s behind the desk, grilling you about the way you look or the way you talk. [CEO] Arne Sorenson said it the best. “It’s just diversity, accepting people for who they are, where they are.”
That’s what I do. I accept you for who you are, where you are. Don’t matter where you’re going or where you come from.
In 2019, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York and [participated in a] statewide training that everybody was required to do. The corporate trainers came down to different properties and said, “You have to realize that we’re going to have millions of people from every single walk of life here in New York City for this Pride [festival.] Basically, they dropped the gravel and [told us,] “Look at the person, ask for the ID and credit card, and move on. That’s it. Let them check in. They’re here to have a good time.”[After all,] we were celebrating an event that changed lives and the entire world as we know it.