‘Just be yourself’: Gazal Kamali talks hiring on merit, and seeing people for who they are


Each year, International Women’s Day raises a variety of conversations about gender equity. In 2024, the focus is on inclusivity, with the theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’ looking at ways to combat bias, stereotypes, and discrimination in the quest for a gender equal world.

Here, Quest Watergardens Business Owner, Gazal Kamali, shares her perspective on building a more inclusive industry.

As a 36-year-old woman from Afghanistan, who is incredibly passionate about business ownership, inclusivity means being seen for who I am. It means the opportunity to shine, so I can extend that same opportunity to others. It means the chance to leave a lasting, positive impact on the world. Through business ownership, I have the power to reach and impact my staff, customers and stakeholders, all in a meaningful way. All in all, business ownership has been, and always will be, my platform to promote inclusivity.   

The accommodation industry is unique in that it serves as a dynamic platform for women from all walks of life, language, background, and education levels to be welcomed, respected and valued for their contributions. And what an industry it is — one capable of employing people from all walks of life thanks to the multitude of roles, with the main goal of serving everyone equally and with the dignity and care people deserve. Not to mention, our industry reinforces the power of working with local businesses, not-for-profits and government organisations to serve our wider communities.  

Gazal Kamali, Quest Watergardens

I’m privileged to be part of Quest Apartments as the Franchisee Owner of Quest Watergardens. When I enquired about becoming a franchisee and going through the process, I asked the team, “Who do you want me to be? I can be anything you want me to be.” I was told “Just be yourself”. These simple words had such a huge impact on me.  

As a woman in business, I’ve had to stand behind men to be considered for the role of a business owner, so much so that there was an understanding that the man would be the front face of the business while I ran the business once everything was signed. The very best that I could hope for was to stand alongside a man, but never alone on my own. Now, as the face of my business, I’ve had people ask me countless times where the male counterpart is within my business. “Where’s your boyfriend? Husband? Partner? Are they here with you?” When I tell them it’s just me, there’s often a look of confusion, and they’ll ask me the follow-up question enquiring whether my dad (never my mother) funded me. This is beyond infuriating, but nonetheless, it is the standard belief about women in business. That is why hearing those simple words from Quest head office — knowing that I could simply be myself and be considered — was refreshing and left me in disbelief.

Having a workforce comprised mainly of women in my hotel, particularly in leadership positions, is not by chance, or my doing. It’s achieved through the merits of the women themselves. They showed me their attributes of dedication, work ethic, excellent communication skills, high empathy levels, and the ability to manage their professional life alongside their personal life. I see them for who they are and promote their belief in themselves to achieve what they want. The accommodation industry can drive equality and inclusivity by continuing to see people for who they are, to allow freedom of expression and extend our generosity of spirit through our daily interactions of welcoming our guests into our hotels. This subtle act creates a powerful movement.




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