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Women's History Month Spotlight: Donna Marquez

By Luke Fichter

Beginning her Hyatt career 35 years ago, Donna Marquez navigated multiple cities and states before landing here in National Landing. Today, as the general manager of Hyatt Regency Crystal City, she's an advocate for her team's success and the neighborhood's exciting evolution. Her story not only signifies personal and professional ascent, but underscores a steadfast commitment to fostering positive change in the vibrant National Landing community.

Tell us your story.

I was born in New York and moved to Florida at a very young age. I grew up in a low-income Jewish household and the area was notably racist and anti-Semitic, arguably among the worst in the nation. Reflecting on it now, I believe enduring those challenges was the best thing for me. It fostered a deep empathy for those who felt out of place or were resource-deprived. I consider myself fortunate to have had a strong mother. She worked two jobs to support four kids and I vividly remember her breaking down over fears of not being able to provide us with basic necessities. Occasionally, an uncle or one of her cousins would send a check, prompting her to say we had received "a minor miracle." I've aimed to be that minor miracle for others throughout my life.

How did you end up in National Landing?

My career began with Hyatt 35 years ago in Tampa, Florida, when I was encouraged by a chef/professor who believed in the company's capacity for individual expression and creative problem-solving. He was right. Starting in room service, I progressed through food and beverage operations, working across multiple states including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, California, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, and eventually, National Landing.

During the pandemic, while I was at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor, the opportunity at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City arose. My senior vice president recommended the hotel and area.

What's a pivotal moment in your career where a woman mentor or colleague significantly impacted your professional journey?

Other than my mother who provided guidance, it's challenging to single out anyone else. In hospitality, specifically the food & beverage sector, women are significantly underrepresented. In recent years, however, there has been a concerted effort to sponsor and support other women.

What strategies do you employ to mentor and support the women on your team, and how has this shaped the culture of your hotel/industry?

It's important to give the women on my team a voice at the table â€“ asking their opinion and creating a partnership with them. That's something I emphasize. I'm particularly against the stereotype of women as note-takers in meetings. I ensure tasks like that rotate, starting with men. I schedule regular meetings with female leaders for specific development opportunities and encourage them to mentor others are part of our strategy. This approach has shaped a culture of growth and opportunity.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you hope to inspire other women in the hospitality industry?

I often remind male leaders that my gender doesn't define my daily consciousness. Inspiration comes daily from my team, notably from Anika Joseph, a Black female leader who is excelling as director of operations. Her success and development into a potential general manager inspires me, as does our shared goal of elevating women within the hotel and the broader company.

What's something about you that people might be surprised to learn?

People might find it surprising that despite my outward role, I am inherently shy and had to overcome significant personal and socioeconomic challenges to reach where I am today.

As the Chair of the Equity Committee for the National Landing Business Improvement District, what has been the most fulfilling aspect of your role, and how has it impacted your perspective on community engagement and inclusion?

Serving as the Chair of the Equity Committee for the National Landing Business Improvement District has been incredibly fulfilling, particularly working alongside individuals like Malaika Scriven and Matt Jones. Their dedication to community and candid discussions on inclusion have deeply impacted my view on community engagement, revealing the extensive potential for growth and the need to actively seek opportunities to make a significant difference.