Strong and Successful: Women in the Spa and Wellness Industry

March 8th was International Women’s Day and WE asked Karen McFarlane-Montaque to share her insight as a life-long veteran in the Caribbean spa and wellness industry.

Karen Mcfarlane-Montaque is the Spa Director at Jumby Bay Island (formally a Rosewood Resort; now part of the Oetker Collection of Masterpiece Hotels) where she has worked for the last nine and a half years. She is an industry professional with over 15 years of experience in the field and has worked in several resorts around the island of Antigua, including Carlisle Bay, Blue Waters Hotel and Sandals Resort and Spa where she began her career as a Nail Technician and Massage Therapist.   She also serves on the WE Education Advisory Board in brining conintinual advancement to Spa Proffesionals in the region.  
1) How did you get started in the Spa & Wellness Industry?

Growing up I had a natural talent in styling my own hair and nails and I would practice on friends and family. After migrating to Antigua, I landed my first job as a tour representative which afforded me the opportunity to work at Sandals Antigua Resort and Spa. The Sales and Marketing Manager at the time Mrs. Ezra Gore-James was somehow fascinated with my set of acrylic nails I was wearing and when she learned that I had done them myself she quickly jumped into action by recommending me to work as an apprentice and the rest was history.

2) What was your first leadership role and what was the biggest challenge you faced?

My first leadership role was Spa Supervisor at Blue Waters Hotel in Antigua. My biggest challenge was not having a direct report, hence I had to self teach how to be a leader to a team.  

3) Are there certain qualities that you think make an exceptional leader?
An exceptional leader is one who exercises transparency and fairness, one who is honest confident and most importantly has great communication skills.

4) What 3 tips do you have for creating a harmonious staff in the industry and retaining them?K mcfarlane
1. Celebrate individual and team successes
2. Give honest and positive feedback
3. Show appreciation

5) Is there a practice that you recommend for staying on track to achieve your goals?
I share my goals with my team and where possible I include them in the goal-setting process. This gives them a sense of empowerment. I involve them as much as possible in the decision-making process, sometimes the best ideas come from your team.

6) What podcasts, books, magazines, events or courses do you utilize to develop professionally?
Stephen Covey 7 habit of Highly Effective People
Ken Blanchard – Situational Leadership
Harvard Manage Mentor
ISPA Conference
Pulse Magazine, New Beauty, Organic Spa Magazine

7) If you could have any item on your Wishlist to support your team better, what would you request?
A staff area equipped with a mini library and computer.

8) What is the biggest challenge that you think we face today in the spa & wellness industry?
One of the challenges we face in the Caribbean is the high cost of importation due to limited resources in our region, which at times sets our margins high. There is also a shortage of trained professionals which often we go outside of our region to employ spa professionals. WE plan to change the industry by educating more spa professionals in the region through the WE Education Advisory Board advocacy and more certified spa programs with in our region. 

9) How do you balance work and life?
I dedicate my two days off to spending as much time with my family. I have an 8-year-old, he keeps track of my days off, especially on the weekend. He pretty much sets my schedule which of course involves all his favorite things he wants to do.  For my personal self-care, I get a pedicure at least once every other week and aim get to bed by 10 pm.

10) Who have your women role models been and what have you learned from them?
Oprah Winfrey. I have learned that your past does not have to dictate your future. It is how you choose to learn from past mistakes or atrocities of life that will determine how successful you become.


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