Interview with Samir Arora for WEPs signatory The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel

“Businesses require a solid set of standards and guidelines to drive women’s empowerment successfully, so addressing this will give organizations a strong competitive advantage.”

Samir Arora is heading the recently launched The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel, and we had the pleasure to chat with him about the importance of his company being a WEPs signatory member and an advocate for women empowerment in the region.

WEPs UAE: Please introduce your company and its type of business.

Samir: The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel, the newest addition to AccorHotels’ distinctive MGallery collection of contemporary boutique hotels worldwide, is the region’s first 360-degree holistic wellbeing resort, located on the iconic Palm Jumeirah, Dubai.

W: Please introduce yourself and the role you currently hold.

S: I am Samir Arora and I am the General Manager of The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel. My role comprehends key responsibilities including contracting wellness partners across the globe, all HR and hiring processes and primary franchise agreements.

W: What propelled your company to sign up for WEPs and become a signatory?

S: Businesses require a solid set of standards and guidelines to drive women’s empowerment successfully, so addressing this will give organizations a strong competitive advantage.

The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel was launched by a predominantly female team, and we continue to be inspired by them every day and empower them.

W: What measures does your company have in place to help with gender balance/diversity and inclusion (D&I) I in the region?

S: Although women make up the majority of the global travel and tourism workforce (70%):

  • Less than 40% hold managerial and supervisory positions;
  • Less than 20% hold general management roles; and
  • Only 5-8% hold corporate board roles.

Currently, The Retreat has 53 female colleagues, including five senior roles, 11 mid-scale and 16 supervisors. The strategy is increase those numbers and we have a clear strategy of not less than 30% of female in the team and where female chooses to leave is replace by another female candidate. Certain positions are also reserved for female candidates such as Front Office Manager, Guest Experience manager. We established a coaching, mentoring and internship programs called ‘in your shoes’ which is designed to support women empowerment in the hotel. We are mentoring a senior manager with the intention of supporting her growth into a leadership position through the talent management programme at the corporate level. Candidate Selection Policy sets minimum staffing and recruitment targets at 30%.

In November 2017 we received the Evolvin’ Women Endorsement and went through an assessment of our policies that helped us measure our diversity and inclusion efforts. Short after that we became signatory to WEPs.

W: Why is D&I and women’s empowerment important to your company right now?

S: Women are inspiring: they’re discerning, dedicated, and determined. This is why the MGallery by Sofitel launched its bespoke “Inspired By Her” initiative – a concept that includes special offerings tailor made for female guests by female team members – to pay homage to the strong, intelligent and independent women who make up the team and the community.

W: Any future policies/campaigns you’d like to implement?

S: In November 2017 we recruited Antoinette Allah-Mensah from Haif-Assini in the western region of Ghana. Anotinette is a member of Evolvin’ Women, a social enterprise and a WEPs taskforce member, led by Assia Riccio, that improves the employability of women from developing countries through the provision of necessary resources, networks, education and employment opportunities that would not be otherwise available to them.

Anotinette will spend one year with us at the end of which, she will be prepared to find a job in Ghana through Evolvin’ Women. We are proud that The Retreat has become a development platform for women who wish to better themselves and give back to their family, community and country.

In celebration of International Women’s Day in 2018, we hosted our second exhibition at the hotel’s RGallery with ZeeArts, a leading arts community group that reflects on progress made to call for change and to celebrate the acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who play an extraordinary role in history.

In September 2017 together with Evolvin’ Women we also launched “Let’s sit at the table for women’s empowerment” a series of seven roundtables inspired by the seven WEPs to share knowledge, experience and ideas on how to drive women in business within the hospitality industry, marketplace and community. Topics include:

  • creating a gender equality culture;
  • attracting, developing and retaining women;
  • well-being;
  • listening to women;
  • providing women with formal and informal opportunity for networking; and
  • empowering women in the marketplace and community.

W: Your message to co-WEPs members and to all potential signatories in the region.

S: We are proud to be part of WEPs, as it is at the forefront of UAE’s national strategy with the aim to be achieved by 2021, providing equality in education opportunities and economic empowerment.

Want to become a WEPs UAE signatory and/or a taskforce member? Click here or contact our Outreach Team at and