Gisele Clark on Building a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace at Hilton Dubai The Walk

About the episode

In this episode of the Accessibility Champions Podcast, Dr. Geraldine Naidoo sits down with Gisele Clark, a distinguished hotel manager with over 25 years of international experience in the hospitality industry. Currently serving as the hotel manager at Hilton Dubai The Walk, Gisele shares her journey and insights into promoting diversity and inclusion within the hospitality sector. From pioneering initiatives that celebrate diverse talents to spearheading inclusive recruitment and training programs, Gisele’s commitment to creating welcoming environments for all is truly inspiring.



Accessibility Champions Cover Artwork

About the show

Accessibility Champions is an educational video podcast series that celebrates the world of accessibility and the inspiring work being done by industry leaders to serve the rapidly growing market of people of determination. Each episode features conversations with prominent figures and community partners across various sectors who go above and beyond to champion accessibility. By exploring their initiatives, strategies, and success stories, we aim to shed light on the incredible impact of their efforts.

About the guest

Gisele Clark, a Britsh national and distinguished hotel manager with over 25 years of international experience in the hospitality industry. Gisele’s journey encompasses leadership roles in luxury boutique hotels to esteemed brand resorts, where she has consistently driven exceptional guest experiences and operational excellence.

At the heart of Gisele’s leadership is a steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion. Throughout her career, she has championed initiatives to promote diversity within her teams and across the industry. Gisele believes in the power of inclusive environments, where every individual’s unique talents and perspectives are celebrated and valued.

Currently serving as the Hotel Manager at Hilton Dubai The Walk, Gisele leads with a visionary approach, optimizing performance and setting new industry benchmarks. Her tenure boasts remarkable achievements, including record-breaking Revenue Generation Index (RGI) and Guest Satisfaction scores.

Dr. Geraldine Naidoo, host of the Accessibility Champions Podcast

About the host

Dr. Geraldine Naidoo has a Doctorate and a PhD in Natural Medicine and is a certified Trauma Informed Professional. She is also focused on removing “internal” barriers as  she provides stress relief and wellness solutions for  clients who are dealing with, or have been diagnosed with, Anxiety, Autism, ADHD, depression, pain and other chronic conditions that typically create stress and overwhelm which adds to their existing challenges. She uses a variety of research based techniques to provide impactful solutions that are focused, effective, and non-invasive, with no contra-indications.



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:


Hello and welcome back to the accessibility champions podcast, a show that explores the world of accessibility in the MENA region. Our special guest today Gisele Clark, distinguished hotel manager with over 25 years of international experience in the hospitality industry. Just as journey and compasses leadership roles in luxury boutique hotels, two esteemed brand resorts. At the heart of Gisele is leadership is a steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion. Throughout her career, she has championed initiatives to promote diversity within her teams, and across the industry. Gisele believes in the power of inclusive environments, where every individual’s unique talents and perspectives are celebrated and valued. Gisele, a very hearty welcome today. Thank




Gisele Clark:

Thank you. Pleasure to be here.



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:

Can you tell us more about you, please?



Gisele Clark:

Yes, certainly. So I’m British. I’m a mom of two. I have eight year old twins. And I’m currently hotel manager at Hilton divide The Walk. I’ve been working for Hilton for almost six years now. And have been in Dubai since 2009.



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:

Mom of twins, hotel manager, and a huge contributor to change. The region is very lucky to have you. Gisele, you have a remarkable 25 years in the hospitality industry. How have you seen attitudes towards diversity and inclusion evolve in this time? And what role do you believe hotels play in promoting these values?



Gisele Clark:

Yes, certainly. So I mean, having been in Dubai since 2009, Dubai has definitely changed since I’ve been here. But I think as people travel more people are more educated and experienced. And it’s, you know, in terms of roles in a lot more women going back to the workplace, in terms of being open to gender diversity, nationality, abilities, the world has become a more accessible place than I think. Being in Dubai, Dubai always wants to be at the forefront for any changes. And at the moment, Dubai is certainly positioning itself as being one of the leading destinations for accessibility. And we saw all the work that was done for Expo and I was very privileged to have been in Dubai while we were doing both the leading up to Expo and afterwards, and post pandemic as well. So we’ve really opened up to tourism, and putting Dubai on the map as a global destination. At the moment, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but Dubai is also aiming to be the first certified Center for Autism in the eastern hemisphere. So we’re very proud to be part of that and the steps that Dubai is taking. And DET is also very supportive so hotels play a big part in supporting the destination as well. I’m also very fortunate to work for Hilton. So we were voted number one in the wealth and best place to work. And that’s because of our diversity and the team. So we have different groups that we can join. So whether it be for, you know, black, Hispanic, or female or abilities, there’s various groups that we can join several and very much is at the forefront for diversity and inclusion.



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:

Wow, huge congratulations for that. That is incredible. I’m so glad that you love where you work and what you do. Can you tell us more about your initiatives and strategies and how you support this whole process in your workplace? I mean, you just did share just now. It’s quite an incredible thing that the country has been given this beautiful direction by the Sheikh to say we want to honor, we truly want to honor people of all abilities. How do you process Optus in your workplace? Can you tell us about your recruitment, your onboarding, your integration and so on? Yeah,



Gisele Clark

Certainly, actually, I’m currently project lead for Hilton in the UAE. We’ve set up a project group. So involving HR managers from across different hotels in various Emirates from focus service, full service and luxury. And we’re putting together playbooks to help other hotels. So we’re not reinventing the wheel each time to support them for finding a more diverse workforce. The onboarding recruitment and how we can make people feel comfortable when they join the workplace and it’s really going back to basics. So when you are reaching out, the first step is how do you target a different audience because it’s not necessarily the traditional way that you would go to find people. So there is a lot of it through word of mouth, but there are organizations that can help so whether you are in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Rafa Kaymer, you know, who are the organizations that can help you. And then just really looking at, you know, when you are doing an interview, again, it may not necessarily be a traditional interview, the candidate may make me want more details before they come, so they come prepared, and they may be coming with a relative, they may not be coming on their own. So you kind of have to adapt the interview accordingly. Just be open minded, really, you may need to. I mean, the first time I did an interview with someone he was not listening to speaking, then obviously, you have to, you have to think differently, you know, I don’t sign language. I tried very badly. So there are tools that you can use that can help you in the process. And it’s really looking at people as an individual, rather than, you know, the traditional what qualifications and experience have they got, and then going from there. And once you have found somebody that you think would be a good fit for your organization, and they would like to come and work for you, then look at the practical tips. So for example, in Dubai, the majority of our team members would live in our accommodation. So is the accommodation suitable? Would they need to have a single room as opposed to a sharing room? How would they get to work and then just the practical considerations on onboarding, we would normally recommend having a buddy, so they have a one person contact, that can help because again, particularly if it’s a neuro diverse, having somebody that they’re familiar with is, it helps settle in a lot easier, and having regular check ins so we can see how they’re doing and we can get the one on one feedback. And then, again, in the playbooks going back to the checklist, so we have a clear checklist, very specific instructions for training. And not just for the person who’s joining, but for the rest of the team, because it’s really important, the rest of the team they’re working with, kind of know what to expect, how they can help, and also make them feel at ease, as well. So that’s kind of roughly what the playbooks are covering up putting them together as we speak. So that’s the direction that we’re getting in. 



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:

Wow, that is truly impressive. And is this playbook going to be available only to your own company within your own company? Or will you be sharing this just internally?



Gisele Clark:

It’s just internally.



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:

Yeah. I love that you’re leading so phenomenally, truly something for other companies to consider as well? Yes. Wow. And what impact do you believe this has on guest experience when you include people of all abilities? What impact do you believe this has on your guests? Well,



Gisele Clark:

Our guests are very diverse as well. I mean, if you think about the population, I can’t remember this is distinct. I think it was something like 16% of the population at some point in your life, you will face some kind of challenge, whether it be a physical one or neurodiverse challenge. So there’s, there’s, you know, 16 percent quite a high number. And I think having a diverse workforce, it just helps us relate and connect better with the guests. So I’ll give you an example. We’ve got one of our waiters in the all day dining restaurant, he can’t or he can’t hear or speak. So we have it he has a badge saying I can sign so we focus on You know what he can do as opposed to what he can’t do. And one of our guests was also listening and speaking. And it was just so lovely to see the interaction and the look on the guests face when he actually had somebody he could communicate with. So it’s those little moments that you can really impact on a guest stay. And if a guest is happy, they’ll come back and recommend us as well.



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:

Of course, I love that, you know, as human beings, on the most basic level, we just wish to connect with people that are similar to ourselves. Yeah, I love that. Yes. And yes, the facts, the stats, I think, say that 96% of people will return if they’re happy. So you’re doing a fabulous job. Excellent. So we do know that teamwork makes the dream work. How do you ensure that your team at Hilton Dubai, The Walk reflects your amazing commitment to this kind of diversity and inclusion? Yeah,



Gisele Clark:

It’s all about education, awareness, and training. So we have an inclusive environment, and make people feel comfortable, really. So being with a very diverse team, in terms of nationality, gender, we, you know, try and have as much diversity as we can. And, again, very fortunate with Hilton that we have a lot of training material that we can use. So again, it’s about education, and also DET, they have training materials as well. So to Dubai Way, and it is tailored to different learnings as well. So if you prefer short videos that you can watch, or reading materials, there’s plenty of options there. And actually, we’ve used some of our own team members to do the training. So we have quite a few team members that can’t hear or speak. And, and we kind of could see that, you know, the communication barriers. So what we did, they did some little videos of themselves doing sign language. So they were then teaching the rest of the team some basic sign language. And as I was mentioning, they love it when we have a game and we make a mess of it. And we just have a giggle, you know, because my memory is terrible. I’ll never sign on. Really forgot this. Barriers, you know, it’s yeah,



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:

Yes. It’s quite interesting how, you know, not all challenges are visible, I love that you really are considering even with your training being so diverse, and including all these different types of abilities. Can you tell us based on your experience with diversity and inclusion of needs, what advice would you give to other hotel managers who are looking to enhance their own diversity and inclusion practices? I mean, you’re doing a fabulous job on the side of employment. What would you like to tell other people that are looking to make similar changes? I think it’s



Gisele Clark:

Just about being open minded, and just open to possibilities. So I mean, we’ve got some great stories here from our own hotel, but it’s not going. It’s being open minded in your approach, being patient, talking to people and just educating yourself really, I would say that the most important thing is keeping an open mind. So you’re not restricted. You know, in your talent pool and go in with preconceived conceptions, what you think somebody can’t do, it’s not necessarily the case. And usually, you find something that balances that out. So they may not be able to do one thing, but they’ll be amazing at something else. So it’s just finding what that amazing thing is and utilizing that.



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:

That is beautiful. That’s the true meaning of inclusion, and I love it. Thank you. Gisele, do you have a favorite story about inclusion? Thank you for what you’ve already shared? Do you have another story that you’d like to share with us? Go for it. Our audience would love to know more that



Gisele Clark:

We have one very special team member. He’s actually got cerebral palsy. And we’ve never ever had a team member with cerebral palsy before. And he had no hotel experience, but he came to the interview. And what we discovered is that he’d actually traveled overnight from I don’t know, some of the other side of Abu Dhabi. He’d come by public transport. He arrived early, you know, very smartly presented. And you know, obviously traveling for him was a big It wasn’t an easy feat to do. He he can walk but not you know, it’s it’s it’s, it’s it was a challenge and we Just I was with my front of house manager, and we just looked at each other and like, you know, across the room with the interview, and we just, we were just look, you know, we have to find a job for this, you know, he was his attitude. And, you know, we knew that we could use that. And he has been an absolute superstar. So he joined us over a year ago. And originally, when we interviewed him, he wasn’t comfortable being in a Front of House position, he was worried about what people would think of him and how he would come across both to guests and to the rest of the team. So he wanted the back of house position. But we kind of knew that he had the potential to be out front with the guests. So within, I think two weeks, he’d done all his learning. He was super conscientious. He did all the online learning. And he said, he asked, you know, can I get in front of the house. So he’s now a concierge clerk. So he’s welcoming all of our guests. He gets amazing feedback. And he’s become a real advocate for us. And he not only has done that, but he also helps other people. So he’s continuing to grow. He’s just done his Mental Health First Aid training. So he’s a qualified mental health first aid, and now, so he can actually help your team members. Well, you know, that is just amazing. So we’re really, really privileged to have him on the team. So yes, that’s when it’s



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:

Wow, that’s so many words pop into my head at the moment. You know, you guys are inspirational, innovative, I love that you really are creating a world without barriers. And this is, this is what the world is desperate for at the moment. Yes, thank you for your movie.



Gisele Clark:

One thing. So working in hotels is like a family. And I think a lot of people working in Dubai, they’re away from their own families. So it’s really important. We make people feel welcome. And they have got that support network behind them. So yes, that’s how that’s how we look at it.



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo: 

I love it. Yes, not just commitment, but also truly dedicated to change. I love it. Gisele, do you have a favorite Adarsh or a truly Gisele saying that you’d like to share with us today?



Gisele Clark:

I’d like to actually, I think probably use the word of our vision of our founder, actually, as Conrad Hilton, filling the world, the world with the light and warmth of hospitality. And because that’s what we do. This is what hotels are doing, and we strive to do every day. And no, diversity is a fact. But it’s the inclusion it’s an act. And, and that’s down to all of us. It’s not an HR job. It’s not a numbers game. It’s connecting with the community. And that’s what we do.



Dr. Geraldine Naidoo:

I love it and I can see your passion just shows forth in your beautiful big smile to Excellent. Thank you, Gisele. To our audience. We hope you have enjoyed today’s incredible and inspiring session about the innovative changes being made at the Hilton Dubai, The Walk, we invite you to share this uplifting information to help create a more accessible and welcoming environment for people of all strengths and abilities. Working together is powerful. We invite you to collaborate with us. For more information. Go to that’s I B C C E S dot org. May your week be filled with the unwavering spirit of determination.


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