Celebrate the women responsible for making magic at Walt Disney World! Celebrate Women’s History Month thanks to Disney Parks Blog, by celebrating the iconic women who have made magic possible across the Walt Disney Company! Disney Park Blogs have interviewed five incredible female leaders as we celebrate an incredible moment, where for the first time in history- all four of Walt Disney World’s theme parks are led and protected by women!
The five ladies interviewed are Vice Presidents Jackie Swisher, Kartika Rodriguez, Melissa Valiquette, and Sarah Riles and Linda Reid, Vice President of security. Together, they are responsible for leading the magic at Walt Disney World’s four theme parks and beyond! Together, they break barriers and continue to encourage so many women within the Walt Disney Company and beyond to “follow their dreams”
Meet the Women behind Walt Disney World Magic!
Jackie Swisher, Vice President Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Meet Jackie Swisher, Vice President of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, bringing more than 15 years of leadership experience to this beloved theme park! Jackie’s main passion is creating an inclusive environment for her team. Encouraging cast members to have courage and speak out is always her top priority, as she believe “it’s important to learn from women (and men) who don’t look like me or who have an opinion that is different than mine.”
Through empowerment, Jackie believes it’s the small actions to lift up other women that are often the most impactful ways to support and celebrate them this month, and beyond. By “recognizing other women in a positive way can help build them up and grow self-confidence,” said Jackie. “You never know when you have said something that makes a real difference in someone’s life.”
Kartika Rodriguez, Vice President Epcot
Kartika continues to make history by becoming the first Black, female vice president to lead a Walt Disney World theme park. After her recent promotion from being EPCOT operations General Manager for five years!
Kartika has been with the Walt Disney Company for over 21 years and in her interview celebrates the number of women in leadership who paved the way before her. During her reflection she remembers thinking ‘I too, could have the opportunity to one day be a senior leader in this organization.’” Now, she’s leading one of the most significant transformations at EPCOT that is taking us into the next evolution of Walt Disney World Resort.
As a way to celebrate Women’s History Month, she encourages others to become a mentor as it often has just as much benefit to your development and growth as it does the mentee.“Sharing knowledge can feel empowering, and as you coach someone, you will likely collect knowledge as well.”
Melissa Valiquette Vice President Magic Kingdom
Melissa is recently celebrating her new role after overseeing EPCOT for the past six years! Like the fab five women today, Melissa started her journey in the Walt Disney Company as a Guest Relations Hostess at City Hall more than 25 years ago! Since then she recalls looking up at her male peers and brings awareness to the challenges of being a women in leadership.
Melissa reflects this challenge, “being of small stature, I often felt I needed to demonstrate more ‘command’, take up more room at the table, even speak a little deeper,” Melissa said.
For Melissa, the Former Walt Disney World President, Meg Crofton, has been a valuable role model for in her leadership journey and remembers, “through her example, I learned that leadership shines through, regardless of size, volume, or gender. I began to embrace my own inherent style that allowed me to grow and feel comfortable in my own skin.”
To the next generation of leaders, Melissa’s advice is to “work hard, be humble and genuine, build strong relationships at every opportunity and aim high!”
Sarah Riles Vice President Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Sarah comes from a diverse leadership background with roles from Industrial Engineering, Operations, Business Optimization and more. Such diversity brings Sarah valuable and unique perspectives to her role!
Sarah is proud to serve in her new role alongside the fab five and her admiration for women continues. For Sarah inspiration comes from women who have confidence in their values, who lead from the heart and those who find opportunities to serve others. A recent inspiration for Sarah comes from a leader who left her family in Taiwan to work at Disney. Sarah reports, “when she came here, she didn’t know how to do a lot of the things we take for granted. Now she is a successful leader with an inspiring story of bravery, risk-taking and following your dreams. Those are the types of courageous women that I admire most!”
Linda Reid Vice President of Security
Last but never least, Linda, Vice President of Security celebrates another strong woman in leadership. Linda has an impressive background in leading a variety of service and security teams outside of Disney and is now protecting the magic by leading the Walt Disney World Security Team!
Linda reflects being a female leader in an often male-dominated field. However, she is optimistic that her position can give other women hope and the confidence to follow their dream to become whoever they aspire to be! Furthermore, her own inspiration comes from fellow women who too have broken barriers. Linda reflects “other women inspire me by their stories of overcoming their own obstacles. Every one of us has a story of resilience and endurance—having the courage to be vulnerable and share these stories is powerful social medicine for our time.”
For Linda, her main piece of advice and inspiration is “do not allow anyone or anything to tell you that it’s not possible. If the goal is righteous, then never ever give it up.”
Linda also reflects on her opportunity to work alongside many great women who she sees as leaders, friends and even fellow moms. Together they are the driving force of the company and makes the future of Walt Disney World bring and magical!
Thanks to Disney Park Blogs for interviewing the Women of Walt Disney World who continue to make magic possible and hope to inspire future generations of women for the Walt Disney Company and the world beyond!