Mary Stuart is CEO of  Luna Park Melbourne in Australia. “The attractions industry is universal and in a unique position to be a world leader in supporting and developing workplace cultures that treat women and men equally,” she says. “Guests in our parks are not just one gender. The serious business of ensuring fun and life-long memories will be better met with the full participation of both women and men at all levels within the attractions industry. More women on boards and more women in senior decision-making positions in our companies will help to change the under representation of women in positions of authority. The industry will be better for it. Our companies will be better places to work.”

Thoughts on Women in the Industry

What is the most pressing issue facing women in the workplace today, and how can the attractions industry influence positive change?

There are many issues facing women in the workplace. Gender equity, equal pay, sexism, sexual harassment, discrimination, childcare availability, and family leave to name but a few.
Yes, the attractions industry can be a positive role model and demonstrate best practice by ensuring women are treated the same as men, by implementing workplace practices that encourage full participation of women in the workforce and respect for the contributions women make across all aspects of society and business. This is not hard to do but must be reflected at all levels in an organization and be driven from the top.

How have you seen the industry evolve in regard to gender roles?

There are more women CEOs and more women in senior management positions today than even 10 years ago.  This is great and there are more role models for young women to follow and lots of scope for young women to progress as we aspire to achieve equal representation. When you go to a board meeting or a meeting of senior executives in a company, it would be good to see the society we live in reflected, not just one part or one segment of that society. The attractions industry can play an important role in demonstrating the power of participation and the utilization of collective talents. We aim to inspire and create and expand horizons and the most important ingredient in all our businesses is people. Not just half the people but all the people.
How have you built your network of women in the industry?

By attending national and international forums. By actively engaging with other attraction and cultural institutions. By visiting attractions whenever possible and sharing whatever support or assistance or insights or things learnt you can with other women and also with the men who tend to lead other companies and showing by demonstration competence they may be missing out on by not targeting women of talent in their own organizations.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to convey to women starting their attractions careers?
Be the best you can possibly be at whatever you are doing. Remember women always have to outperform the index. Don’t worry about this, just get on with it, work hard and don’t be too polite.

Never let anyone put you down or tell you, you cannot do something just because you are a woman. Don’t cede the power to set a ceiling on your aspirations to anyone else. Men do not have a monopoly on achieving amazing things. Women have always done amazing things.

Creating Careers of Distinction

How do you invest in yourself as a leader?
I try to invest in other people. The work of ordinary people can be extraordinary in its impact. I think the best thing you can do for yourself as a leader, is to listen and allow others to shine and grow and develop. Always respect the work that people do. Never be threatened by talent. Seek it out. Surround yourself with capacity and enthusiasm and creativity. Nurture the most talented women and men you can find. You will be well rewarded.
What is your most cherished work principle?

To be fair and forthright, to treat people with respect and to earn respect. To do what I can to make a difference and speak for those who don’t have a voice. A workplace that allows discrimination or tolerates sexual harassment will face increasing costs and lower productivity. A society that discriminates against women will pay a direct price for that discrimination. Workplaces that embrace non-discrimination against women have not suffered economically. Companies with more women executives and board members have superior economic performance. It is simple good business practice.

What do you consider your most significant career accomplishment?

Being the only woman (and young) working in a number of very male-dominated industries, and earning respect for my work. There came a point when being a woman was not a relevant factor but rather respect for what I did and for how I worked. This will not be every woman’s experience but I found it enormously liberating.

What has had the greatest impact on your career?
The greatest impact and the greatest privilege has been to work for and with a number of exceptional leaders, who have been both inspirational and who have achieved significant change.

We all have giants in our lives who inspire us and who enlarge what we think we can do. I was very lucky. Idealistic and cause driven I was actively encouraged and supported and pushed by two different leaders in two different enterprises. They both believed in supporting and encouraging and developing the talents of women. Both were men. There were no women leading organizations in those days where I came from. Both these men were exceptional and ahead of their time. I came to understand later that their commitment to supporting and promoting women was driven by logic not ideology. They thought it was better for business, that their organizations would perform better by developing the productive capacity of both men and women not just men. We all stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us.

What has been the greatest challenge of your career?

There have been lots of challenges. I think convincing people of the need for change and establishing a collective commitment when you are not the leader in an organization.
Work hard and think hard. Be prepared to have an argument and prosecute a position. Real change doesn’t come by decree it is driven by belief.

The Future of the Industry

Why did you join and choose to stay in the attractions business?

It is lots of fun. There is serious hard work and discipline that sits behind the fun. But who wouldn’t want to be in the business of fun. It is simply the best!
What makes you most passionate about the industry?
The enthusiasm and joy and laughter that is created in the hearts of the people who come to us. We are uniquely able to enter into the social and cultural fabric of our communities with their dreams and aspirations, their childhoods, their journeys into adulthood and beyond!
What is your vision for the industry in the next 20 years?
The industry will grow and prosper. It will enrich the lives of millions of people around the world. It will train great professionals at all levels and teach great work ethic to successive generations of young people. It will grow a culture of inclusion and non-discrimination that will inform us, entertain us, inspire us and educate us. It will continue to change and women and people of ethnicity will be represented at all levels in the industry and in companies. Half the industry’s CEOs will be women. Half the board members will be women. Half the executives in the industry will be women. This is not a radical view. The radical view is to think that half the population is not represented.

​​Know a professional we should talk to? E-mail Prasana William, IAAPA manager, digital content and strategy.


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