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Show report
Women of Disney

Some of Disney’s most talented female leaders share their stories about breaking into the industry, leading and inspiring teams, and creating new and innovative experiences that immerse guests in stories they love

Hosted by Walt Disney World advisor Marilyn West and moderated by Kathy Mangum, senior vice president, Walt Disney World Portfolio Executive at Imagineering, a panel made up of the top women of Disney’s parks featured:

• Bettina Buckley, vice president, Disney Parks Live Entertainment, Walt Disney World Resort

• Debbie Petersen, vice president, Creative Design and Development, Walt Disney Imagineering - Florida

• Melissa Valiquette, vice president, Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort

• Tracey Powell, vice president, Revenue Management, Walt Disney World

• Nancy Seruto, vice president, Shanghai Disney Resort Executive Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering

• Rachel Quinn, general manager, Magic Kingdom Entertainment, Walt Disney World Resort

Introducing the panel, Mangum, who spent four decades at Disney, revealed her plans to retire at the end of 2018.

“I’ve seen Orlando and Imagineering change,” she said. “With Disney, internally I’ve seen it change with more and more women in roles of leadership and responsibility.

“We’ve brought to you a powerful and multi-faceted group of women throughout Disney. They’re here to tell their stories, where they get their inspiration from and the challenges they’ve faced.”

Climbing the ladder
Bettina Buckley

Bettina Buckley was the first member of the panel introduced. She shared her story of how she got into Disney, rising through the ranks to the position she currently holds today: “My father died when I was young and my mother decided to move us to Orlando, where she started a career at Disney Entertainment. That became my path.

“Over the years, I was part of the live performing side of things, then I transitioned to a technician, and then became a senior producer. It’s a perfect example of the career path a company like Disney provides.”

Rolling the dice
Tracey Powell

Tracey Powell’s journey differed from many of her colleagues on stage. She built a career outside of Disney, becoming an executive director at Carnival Cruise Lines. Seeking opportunities in Florida, Powell took the brave step of going back down the corporate ladder in order to join Disney – a gamble that would pay off.

“When I decided I wanted to move to Florida, there was no other place for me than Disney,” she explained. “I was an executive at Carnival but knew what I wanted. I took a step backwards to come in as a senior manager. Within two years, I was an executive again.”

Asked about the most effective leadership skills, Powell said the best way to know how to handle your employees and guests, is to walk a mile in their shoes.

“I had the opportunity to lead 10,000 cast members and I had to learn what it meant to be frontline and what that meant for the guest experience,” she said. “I became a housekeeper and a greeter so I could learn what it meant to be day-in and day-out with our guests.”

Freethinking
Debbie Petersen

Debbie Petersen‘s grandmother played a big part in her life, encouraging her to become an “independent thinker” and inspiring her love for Disney.

“She would take clippings from the newspaper to show me Magic Kingdom as it was built,” Petersen recalled. “I still remember the day I got the clipping that showed the castle. I was so excited and then, in 1972, we made our first visit.”

Petersen, who has been a part of Disney for 41 years, joined the company in 1977, taking a position selling ice cream. From there she would climb the ranks, joining Imagineering in 1987 and soon after becoming vice president of creative design and development.

Speaking on her role in Imagineering, Petersen described the environment as “inspiring”, with that inspirational feeling driving Disney’s Imagineers to create, with a particular focus on inclusion.

“Inspiration can even be found when you’re in the kitchen toasting a bagel,” she said. “Our company’s dedication to diversity inspires me. With the stories we tell, we want our guests to be able to see themselves in, those stories.”

Shanghai delights
Nancy Seruto

For Nancy Seruto, in 2011 she was given a choice – continue to run the business she had built from the ground up or take the opportunity to join Bob Weiss on the Disney Shanghai project.

Seruto would pick Disney, joining Imagineering as an executive producer for Treasure Cove at Shanghai Disney – the first pirate-themed land in a Disney park. In partnership with Luc Mayrand, she led a team of more than 100 Imagineers on the land’s creative development, along with one of the most complex attraction designs ever attempted: Pirates of the Caribbean – Battle for Sunken Treasure.

“When I was asked to come on board, I asked myself, if I hang on to the thing I’m comfortable with, what am I going to miss out on? I decided to join Disney and I loved every minute. But it was a huge leap.”

Shanghai Disneyland is the first Disney park resort in mainland China
World travelled
Rachel Quinn

Hailing from a small mining town in the north of England, Rachel Quinn spent 10 years as a dancer performing on cruise ships. From there, Quinn moved into a leadership role, later joining the Disney Cruise Line in 1998 and working her way to the position of cruise director. After nearly three decades of travelling the world, she became general manager at Animal Kingdom and then Magic Kingdom. Reflecting on her career, Quinn believes it was her time at sea that taught her to put happiness at the heart of her work.

“I don’t ever want to lose sight of the importance of happiness,” she said.

“Somewhere you might not usually find happiness, for example, is with safety training. At Magic Kingdom, we do a biannual safety town hall, which is fully produced with themes and actors. It’s all about engagement. If you can engage your cast and connect with them, they take in information better. It’s a different way to engage them in safety. Year after year as we’ve done this, injuries have gone down, so it works.”

Styles clash
Melissa Vallquette

Melissa Valiquette was the final member of the panel. Now vice president of Epcot, she revealed her inspiration came from another female leader at Disney.

“It’s not unusual for me to be the only woman in the room,” she said. “The other three parks are run by three men and for many years, it was the case that I was the only woman.

“There’s a different dynamic between men and women, and I found myself getting feedback every year, with people telling me things like ‘you need to have more command’ or ‘I’d like to see you have a little more physical presence’. It felt to me like I was being coached to be a little more masculine.

“At the same time I was receiving that feedback, Meg Crofton was promoted to president at Disney World, which was career-changing.

“Her style of leadership was very different, I saw with Meg was that there isn’t just one successful style. You didn’t have to have command through a loud voice and a large physical presence, you could also be a gentle influencer. Even in her gentle, quieter style, there was no question when you were in the room with her, that she was in charge. Everyone was listening to every word she said and she was making a change and making a difference. Watching her, I changed my approach.

“If you don’t see somebody at the top who looks like you or acts like you, that’s ok. You can be the first one to do it that way.”

Kath Magum moderated the panel
Marilyn West played host
Disney’s women have shaped the identity of each and every one of its theme parks and other attractions
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Jobs   News   Products   Magazine
Show report
Women of Disney

Some of Disney’s most talented female leaders share their stories about breaking into the industry, leading and inspiring teams, and creating new and innovative experiences that immerse guests in stories they love

Hosted by Walt Disney World advisor Marilyn West and moderated by Kathy Mangum, senior vice president, Walt Disney World Portfolio Executive at Imagineering, a panel made up of the top women of Disney’s parks featured:

• Bettina Buckley, vice president, Disney Parks Live Entertainment, Walt Disney World Resort

• Debbie Petersen, vice president, Creative Design and Development, Walt Disney Imagineering - Florida

• Melissa Valiquette, vice president, Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort

• Tracey Powell, vice president, Revenue Management, Walt Disney World

• Nancy Seruto, vice president, Shanghai Disney Resort Executive Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering

• Rachel Quinn, general manager, Magic Kingdom Entertainment, Walt Disney World Resort

Introducing the panel, Mangum, who spent four decades at Disney, revealed her plans to retire at the end of 2018.

“I’ve seen Orlando and Imagineering change,” she said. “With Disney, internally I’ve seen it change with more and more women in roles of leadership and responsibility.

“We’ve brought to you a powerful and multi-faceted group of women throughout Disney. They’re here to tell their stories, where they get their inspiration from and the challenges they’ve faced.”

Climbing the ladder
Bettina Buckley

Bettina Buckley was the first member of the panel introduced. She shared her story of how she got into Disney, rising through the ranks to the position she currently holds today: “My father died when I was young and my mother decided to move us to Orlando, where she started a career at Disney Entertainment. That became my path.

“Over the years, I was part of the live performing side of things, then I transitioned to a technician, and then became a senior producer. It’s a perfect example of the career path a company like Disney provides.”

Rolling the dice
Tracey Powell

Tracey Powell’s journey differed from many of her colleagues on stage. She built a career outside of Disney, becoming an executive director at Carnival Cruise Lines. Seeking opportunities in Florida, Powell took the brave step of going back down the corporate ladder in order to join Disney – a gamble that would pay off.

“When I decided I wanted to move to Florida, there was no other place for me than Disney,” she explained. “I was an executive at Carnival but knew what I wanted. I took a step backwards to come in as a senior manager. Within two years, I was an executive again.”

Asked about the most effective leadership skills, Powell said the best way to know how to handle your employees and guests, is to walk a mile in their shoes.

“I had the opportunity to lead 10,000 cast members and I had to learn what it meant to be frontline and what that meant for the guest experience,” she said. “I became a housekeeper and a greeter so I could learn what it meant to be day-in and day-out with our guests.”

Freethinking
Debbie Petersen

Debbie Petersen‘s grandmother played a big part in her life, encouraging her to become an “independent thinker” and inspiring her love for Disney.

“She would take clippings from the newspaper to show me Magic Kingdom as it was built,” Petersen recalled. “I still remember the day I got the clipping that showed the castle. I was so excited and then, in 1972, we made our first visit.”

Petersen, who has been a part of Disney for 41 years, joined the company in 1977, taking a position selling ice cream. From there she would climb the ranks, joining Imagineering in 1987 and soon after becoming vice president of creative design and development.

Speaking on her role in Imagineering, Petersen described the environment as “inspiring”, with that inspirational feeling driving Disney’s Imagineers to create, with a particular focus on inclusion.

“Inspiration can even be found when you’re in the kitchen toasting a bagel,” she said. “Our company’s dedication to diversity inspires me. With the stories we tell, we want our guests to be able to see themselves in, those stories.”

Shanghai delights
Nancy Seruto

For Nancy Seruto, in 2011 she was given a choice – continue to run the business she had built from the ground up or take the opportunity to join Bob Weiss on the Disney Shanghai project.

Seruto would pick Disney, joining Imagineering as an executive producer for Treasure Cove at Shanghai Disney – the first pirate-themed land in a Disney park. In partnership with Luc Mayrand, she led a team of more than 100 Imagineers on the land’s creative development, along with one of the most complex attraction designs ever attempted: Pirates of the Caribbean – Battle for Sunken Treasure.

“When I was asked to come on board, I asked myself, if I hang on to the thing I’m comfortable with, what am I going to miss out on? I decided to join Disney and I loved every minute. But it was a huge leap.”

Shanghai Disneyland is the first Disney park resort in mainland China
World travelled
Rachel Quinn

Hailing from a small mining town in the north of England, Rachel Quinn spent 10 years as a dancer performing on cruise ships. From there, Quinn moved into a leadership role, later joining the Disney Cruise Line in 1998 and working her way to the position of cruise director. After nearly three decades of travelling the world, she became general manager at Animal Kingdom and then Magic Kingdom. Reflecting on her career, Quinn believes it was her time at sea that taught her to put happiness at the heart of her work.

“I don’t ever want to lose sight of the importance of happiness,” she said.

“Somewhere you might not usually find happiness, for example, is with safety training. At Magic Kingdom, we do a biannual safety town hall, which is fully produced with themes and actors. It’s all about engagement. If you can engage your cast and connect with them, they take in information better. It’s a different way to engage them in safety. Year after year as we’ve done this, injuries have gone down, so it works.”

Styles clash
Melissa Vallquette

Melissa Valiquette was the final member of the panel. Now vice president of Epcot, she revealed her inspiration came from another female leader at Disney.

“It’s not unusual for me to be the only woman in the room,” she said. “The other three parks are run by three men and for many years, it was the case that I was the only woman.

“There’s a different dynamic between men and women, and I found myself getting feedback every year, with people telling me things like ‘you need to have more command’ or ‘I’d like to see you have a little more physical presence’. It felt to me like I was being coached to be a little more masculine.

“At the same time I was receiving that feedback, Meg Crofton was promoted to president at Disney World, which was career-changing.

“Her style of leadership was very different, I saw with Meg was that there isn’t just one successful style. You didn’t have to have command through a loud voice and a large physical presence, you could also be a gentle influencer. Even in her gentle, quieter style, there was no question when you were in the room with her, that she was in charge. Everyone was listening to every word she said and she was making a change and making a difference. Watching her, I changed my approach.

“If you don’t see somebody at the top who looks like you or acts like you, that’s ok. You can be the first one to do it that way.”

Kath Magum moderated the panel
Marilyn West played host
Disney’s women have shaped the identity of each and every one of its theme parks and other attractions
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DIARY

29-31 Oct 2019

Mediterranean Resort & Hotel Real Estate Forum (MR&H)

Hilton Athens, Athens, Greece
18-22 Nov 2019

IAAPA Expo

Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, United States
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media, Portmill House, Portmill Lane,
Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2019

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
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ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
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