Women in Tourism: Convention Center, Comic-Con International and Hospitality Leaders Share Honors

Women in the San Diego tourism and hospitality industry shared the stage, talked about their roles as leaders and celebrated the superwoman behind San Diego's most famous event, Comic-Con International.

The Multi-Cultural Convention Services Network (MCCSN) held its "Women in Tourism & Hospitality" Honoree Luncheon on Thursday, March 22, and recognized six female leaders:

• Executive Director of Comic-Con International Fae Desmond
• San Diego Convention Center's Executive Director of Communications Barbara Moreno
• Port of San Diego President & CEO Randa J. Coniglio
• General Manager of Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Dania Duke
• Executive Chef and Partner Cohn Restaurant Group Deborah Scott
• SeaWorld San Diego Park President Marilynn Hannes (former San Diego Convention Center Board Member)

This year's theme was "Inspiring Leaders of Tomorrow."

"I once was told, 'If you don't have a seat at the table, then you're on the menu,'" said Moreno.

"That stuck with me and has inspired me to further empower women in this industry to find a seat where their passion is. I'm lucky to work for an organization that champions women in leadership."

Moreno recently was recognized nationally for her work at the Convention Center, earning a designation as one of PR News' Top Women in PR. She leads a team that has also earned awards from the San Diego Press Club, the Public Relations Society of America and Creativity International.

Comic-Con's super leader Desmond stole the show, becoming the inaugural recipient of the Carol Wallace Lifetime Achievement WITH Award. She was escorted to the stage by none other than Darth Vader and two Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion.

Desmond shared how she began her career at the helm of the pop-culture phenomenon as a volunteer. Now, the small community event attracts 135,000 attendees from around the world and generates an estimated $180 billion to San Diego's economy. 

Wallace, who inspired the name of the award, retired in 2015 after 25 years as the President & CEO of Convention Center. She introduced Desmond and praised her role in Comic-Con and the invaluable contributions the event has made to the City of San Diego.

These honors came on the heels of the recognition of the current President & CEO of the San Diego Convention Center, Clifford "Rip" Rippetoe, CVE.

On Wednesday, March 21, Rippetoe was honored with the inaugural "catalyst for change" award at the Women of Influence Awards. This award – the first-of-its-kind for the Connected Women of Influence organization - was designed to recognize a man that gives top nods to women leaders.

Rippetoe received the top award for his "accomplishments in the advancement of businesswomen" as well as having a "track record of success and accomplishments by mentoring and/or supporting women in their profession, industry or enterprise."

“It was an exceptional honor to be the first man to receive an award from the Connected Women of Influence,” said Rippetoe.  "I'm humbled and proud to be considered a champion for the empowerment of women."

Rippetoe, who has been at the helm of the Corporation since 2016, has put into place an executive team led by a diverse group of professionals, the majority of who are women, including Executive Vice President & General Manager Karen Totaro, Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer Mardeen Mattix, Executive Director of Communications Barbara Moreno and Executive Director of Human Resources Terry Kurtenbach.

"Rip Rippetoe is a champion for the advancement of women in business and in our industry in particular," said Totaro. "He has taken a senior team that at one time had been heavily male-dominated and brought in the best and brightest to assist him in achieving even greater success for the San Diego Convention Center. The team to do this just happens to be women. The critical part of this statement is not that he brought in or elevated women, but rather he selected the best and brightest who just so happen to be women."

Totaro added that as Rip's right-hand, "he is the biggest supporter and cheerleader for all the women in this organization. Our success is his success!"

Posted by Jessica Tran, on March 23, 2018
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