Dondra Ritzenthaler Q + A

M: Hello! 

DR: Hi, honey. It’s Dondra! 

M: I’m so excited that we’re finally talking!

Listen, I had another meeting that ended at the exact same time that ours was supposed to start. 

DR: Not even a worry. I’m glad that we’re actually connecting and making this happen because your schedule is absolutely balmy. 

M: Right. But it feels good! I’m so excited that the shoot is coming together, and I know that our window out is going to be really tight. So, if you’re cool with it because it’s almost the end of your day. Actually, for you, it’s 12:00. It’s the end of my day because I’m in the UK. So I was like, I’m thinking, is it the end of your day as well?

DR: I know, it’s only noon for me. It’s noon.

M: Fantastic. So, I’m going to go through a number of questions, and if there’s anything that you’d like to come back to or you’d like to send via email, we can totally do that. We can pick up the rest with Carolina. She’s been brilliant in answering all the questions and following through.

DR: You got it. Perfect. 

M: Fantastic. Okay. Here we go. So, in your opinion, what quality makes a power woman?

DR: What quality? You’re just wanting one? 

M: Yeah. It could be anything that you feel is the strength of a woman, really. 

DR: I think I would say resilience.

M: Oh, nice one!

DR: Yeah. I like resilience, because as women, we have to be resilient. We are managing work and home and kids, and we get our balls thrown to us all the time. We’ve got to be resilient in managing all of those things and keep on shining through it.

M: That’s a really good one. As you know, COVID is still around and at the talking point of everybody’s conversation. Do you believe that there is any gender specific role for women to play in COVID-19 pandemic? Do you believe the response to the COVID-19 pandemic highlights and emphasizes the natural resilience women actually have? 

DR: I think as women with anything challenging, whether it be COVID, whether it be another natural disaster, we naturally take a great leadership role and we try to assist, if people need it. I don’t think that women should have a more responsible role over COVID. I just think that naturally, we do it. As women, when there’s a need, it’s intuitive that we want to go and help solve the problem and help make things better. And as a result, I think that you’ll see women and certainly men as well, but you’ll certainly see women stand up for, you know, “hey, guys, let’s try to make this better. What can we do to work with the team? How can we go and serve under communities or things like that?” It’s just a natural way that women have and then to be assisting as much as possible. But I think right now in the pandemic that it is really incumbent upon all of us to do everything that we can do to wipe this thing out.

M: Yeah. Absolutely. And really nicely put, Dondra, thank you for putting it out there. Because it’s almost built inside of women, that they have a natural response mechanism for things. Right? 

DR: Right. And I think that’s why women are so successful. We have the ability to manage multiple things. And I just think the wonderful thing about powerful women, and that we also really want to look out for each other. And I think that’s a gift that we have as women.

M: Right. I think we are gifted in a fantastic way. How do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality? Do you feel it should be a global approach, or do you feel specific about an area or an issue that you are passionate about?

DR: I think the answer to your question is both, you know? I think gender equality – and not just gender equality, but diversity and inclusion in general – with accepting peoples ethnicity, lifestyle, gender. It’s incumbent upon us all over the world to make things better. And when it comes to gender equality, not only do I think it’s global for that and others, but then in our business. In the celebrity cruises, in the food industry, in the hospitality industry, specifically in areas like the marine part, where it’s the people that are actually in charge of the safety and sailing the ship, it’s really under-penetrated from a female perspective. And our company, I think I’m really proud of our company because we have done so much to turn that around. You know, everything from Captain Kate who, of course, you know, you guys have honored as a power woman in the past, going in and concentrating on finding qualified women to be on the bridge and to really kind of get that more in balance. And when you see corporations, CEOs across the United States are still very much geared towards men. Don’t get me wrong, I think men are awesome. And I certainly am in no way taking anything away. But women are, as well. And that gender equality that we wanted to keep working on, but not because – I don’t think it’s because we’re just women. It’s just because we’re equally bright, equally resilient, equally strategic, and we have to just continue to let the world know that and give ourselves and put ourselves in positions that we can kind of balance that a little bit more, in those sea ranks and places like bridges on ships or in the cockpit of airplanes. That kind of thing.

M: Absolutely. Great answer in that there’s no right or wrong answer here. It should be just a pursuit in everything. Right? 

DR: Gender equality. But also, I want to say that giving people the same opportunity and the same respect, whether you are Muslim or Indian, and whether you happen to be in the LGBTQ+ community. Those are things that we all need to work on, as well, and gender equality certainly is one of them. We want to keep doing that because that’s going to make the world a better place.

M: Right. Absolutely. 100%, and more today than ever in everything that we’re doing, that’s for sure. So, moving onto the next one, what do you think is the number one action we, as a society, can take towards empowering women? For example, in gender equality, taking affirmative action. What do you think? Is there anything else that you think we should be doing as a society?

DR: I think it’s a couple of things. Number one, there’s a book that is written by our Godmother Rashma called “Brave, Not Perfect.” And I think the first part is we as women, we have to be more bold, more confident. We have to expect more. And I think we do that. I think that, like I said, when we’re resilient, we put our mind to something, we make it happen. So, I think we have to be more brave and not perfect because there is a difference. We as women feel like before we go for a job, or before we go after a promotion, we have to be perfect. I don’t think that men feel like that. And so, I think we have to be more brave and not worry about being so perfect because I think that will give us even more opportunities, as a female population. But then the second part of what we need to do is that I think we have to bring awareness to corporations or organizations or just women groups like this, that we’re coming together to celebrate the power of women. And we have to make sure that the people in the world that can help us make change are really aware that there is gender inequality, whether it be who gets the positions or what their compensation is relative to men, and then ask for action.

M: I love that. And then making sure that we ask for the extra. 

DR: Yeah. I mean, you know, we need to stay, you know, and ask them. Give them the awareness. Make sure everybody’s aware. Do it in a very positive way, and then expect action. Expect that it makes a difference.

M: Yeah. Absolutely. Nicely said. Thank you for sharing that which kind of really sort of strikes the chord in where it is that we need to strengthen and have allies in the space for each other. But going on to the next question, actually, I’m not going to ask that one because I think it always makes me feel that I think you get it because of one of the questions and I’ll throw it out there Dondra you can make the call if you want to answer it. Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in a job interview contributes to the pay gap between men and women? Should we push for a more nationwide ban, like in New York State and some of the other states have done now, but you cannot ask anybody what their previous salary was because it was something that happened very fluidly where women were confirmed and the question raises that how can we build on this not happening? And should it be a nationwide ban and not just a state by state ban?

DR: That’s really interesting, because don’t rate this or put this, this is just me thinking for a minute. You know, they’re probably asking men their previous salaries, as well.

M: Right.

DR: One of the things so important is that we want to be treated equally, with the same respect. I don’t want anybody to think that they need to be nicer to women because we’re women. I just want us to be bolder, more confident, and to expect more. To not feel like we have to be perfect. So, I would say now, back on the record to answer your question, asking that or banning previous salary for everyone, I think makes sense, because now we’re all on a level playing field. But I wouldn’t want it banned for just women. I would want it banned for anybody, so that we would all have equal opportunity to be able to increase our salary or get what our value is, versus somebody just saying, “well, if you made this in the past, I can only do 10% more.” We need to be able to go in and negotiate the best deal we can possibly do. If knowing your previous salary has a negative impact on that, then yeah. Let’s ban it, but ban it for everyone.

M: Right. You’re absolutely right. And thank you for just jumping in there. I know that it’s one of those questions that often it’s just like, “but I don’t work in that space.” But I always feel that you still have an opinion and it counts, right? Because you’re in the space where you see these things happening.

DR: See, that’s why I think these types of interviews and things like what we’re doing to empower women need to happen because it’s really comfortable to say, “that’s not my space.” It’s really comfortable right now. But if we’re going to change, we have to get a little bit uncomfortable. Yeah, because no grade is not perfect. I do think that’s a good idea if everybody did the same, and we also negotiated our deals based on our value. I think that’s a good idea.

M: Yeah. Brilliant. So, I’m going to ask a question that is a little bit personal to yourself. Have you ever felt or do you have a short story that you might be able to share where you might have encountered a block due to your agenda due to your agenda on being female over male?

DR: See, I’m not sure that I’m the right person to ask this because I’m highly motivated by money and I’m also not a guy.

M: Yeah. I know. This is how I know you and I are going to get on.

DR: Right. And so I’m not afraid to expect what I expect. I can think of a time where that was paid, but I do know many friends where that has been the case where they offered her less. So, I think the way that I would say this is that I haven’t personally experienced that because I’m brave and I’m confident enough to ask for what I think that I’m worth versus any other way. However, I do believe that that exists sometimes, of course, and that we have to deal with it by being resilient and being really persistent. We need to be confident enough to ask and then get what it is that we believe we deserve, especially equal to the same job that maybe a man would be doing.

M: Right. Brilliant. Nicely said. This brings me nicely into the next question too, because the next question is asking, was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? And can you share what that was? That kind of brought you to this place today. 

DR: Absolutely. I think that you know how everybody in life gets a couple of gifts. And I think that my gift was I was always competitive right out of the gate. When I was really little, I was selling Girl Scout cookies, and the prize was a new bicycle. And I didn’t need a new bicycle and really didn’t even want a bicycle. I just wanted to win. And that continued. And so I have this inherent, competitive will to win. And that has always kind of driven me. I played sports all the way through middle school, high school, and college. And I had this big drive to win. And so, I knew that sales was where I needed to be. And the first job that I got out of college was with American Airlines, and I started out as a flight attendant, because that was the easiest way to get into the organization. And then after about nine months, I started my first sales job. And that was when it was sort of like I knew I was home. I knew that that is exactly where I needed to be because it felt so natural. It felt like selling those cookies again. And it was comfortable for me. And so I knew at that point that sales needed to be where I was at. And then from there, I’ve had such wonderful mentors throughout my whole career at American Airlines, when I ended up being there 20 years and then left and came to Celebrity Cruises. And now, I’ve been at Celebrity Cruises for 18 years. Those are really my only company. But the interesting thing is I had people that really mentored me, and they wrapped their arms around me as a female who they thought they could see a future with, for the company and myself. And then they really embraced me, which is why I do that now, right? It’s sort of like paying it forward. And now, I do the same thing for these young, dynamic women who are coming into the workplace.And I mentor them and I teach them. And I make sure that they’re the future leaders, just like the people at American. The leaders at Celebrity Cruises did it for me. And so, it was really that and then the other story that really impacted the way that I manage. And I lead and I lead my team. I’ve got about 695 people that are in my organization. And one of the things that my mentor said to me was one mistake that people make is that they surround themselves with people that are just like them. And you already have a youth. You need to surround yourself with people that the things that you’re not the most confident in are the things that they’re really good at. And then you surround yourself with them, and then you listen. And I can tell you honestly that that piece of advice changed the way that I hire people. It changed the way I surround myself. And I really do believe that’s been one of the best success stories that I could share with you on how to be successful.

M: Fantastic. And you also answered one of the questions, what was the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?

DR: And that by far is it. And he went on to say it’s sort of like swiss cheese, right. And you put yourself in the middle and there’s holes, right? And what you’ve got to do is plug in those holes. And he said, “just don’t fall into the trap of hiring people that are just like you. Find those people that make you better and listen.” And I’m telling you, I have lived by that for so many years, and I’ve been so successful because I listen to these people. And it makes me a better leader because I know that I’m not always the smartest one in the room. And I love learning from my team.

M: Yeah. Wow. Good for you. That’s so fantastic. I’m looking forward to meeting you and having a drink after this. So, a couple of fun questions. If you could have somebody else’s job for a day, who would it be and why? 

DR: This is a bit random, but I really love sports. I’ve grown up with sports and I think that also sports gives us – I think that sports is so loved and admired and respected that if I could have a leadership role and I’ll say, like, Roger Goodell, or I’ll just stay with that. And I could have his job, who’s the Commissioner of the NFL one day, I would probably do that because I think that I would inspire these pro-athletes that have so much influence on society today. I would inspire them to help the society be even better because they’re in such a wonderful position to influence positive change.

M: Nice.

DR: I didn’t say the President of the United States or anything.

M: I know. And I have to say, you’re only the one that I’ve spoken to that’s ever said a sports person.

DR: Yeah, because, see, most women aren’t into sports to the same level as I am. But I also know that sports figures have huge, massive influence. And, you know, I think also they can really embrace change. So, I hope that that’s not like, way too out there. But that is what entered my mind.

M: Oh my God. No way. Are you kidding? I think it’s enlightening because it shares who you are. You’re true to what you believe in, and you’re true to the people around you. I think that’s priceless. So, just a couple of side chat questions. I’m going to ask you my next two or three questions. Best read?

DR: Best read?

M: Yes. Best book you’ve ever read.

DR: Oh, I love this question. I might have the title wrong ‘cause it’s been years, but we can clear it up later. But it’s a book called “How She Really Does It.” And I’ve read many books for pleasure, but this also, as a woman, I think it’s super powerful because it’s the secret of how to be a stay at home, stay at work mom. And it really was transforming in my life because we as women who have these amazing careers – who are also moms – sometimes, we struggle with the balance between being a mom and being an executive. And how do you find that balance? And you worry, how is this going to impact my children? Are they going to feel loved and secured? And am I going to miss too many things, and those types of things. That book was phenomenal. It gave me confidence. It made me strong. It made me know that my kids are going to be healthy and well rounded adults. And so, it was a really good read.

M: Nice. And I’ll be checking it out, that’s for sure. 

DR: You should. It’s really good. It’s not new. It’s been out for a long time, but it is really powerful.

M: Fantastic. So what do you most value in friends?

DR: I most value in friends, loyalty and – value and friends – loyalty, honesty, and companionship. Friendship, love, because, you know, and I’ll go back to the power of women, I think that women need real girlfriends. I really do. I think we thrive when we have opportunities to talk to each other and ask for advice and help us. If we’re going off on the wrong path, ask for help. Just to sometimes just talk when you’re frustrated with what’s going on. So, I think that friendships for women are really important, and I think loyalty? I think that’s what I look for in a friend. Here’s an example: if I called them at 03:00 a.m in the morning and said, “I’m stuck on this side of the road,” they would be there. That’s the kind of friends that I’m talking about.

M: Yeah. In that circle you just know that whatever happens, you’re there for each other. 

DR: Right. Exactly.

M: And I always say to good friends that it doesn’t matter if you don’t talk every single day or every year or every six months. It’s when you do connect. You’re actually connecting, right?

DR: 100%. I just came back from a girls weekend from my girlfriend that I worked with at American Airlines, and I’ve been gone from American Airlines for 18 years. And we all met up in Colorado, up in the mountains, and we didn’t go anywhere. We cooked and we sat for two and a half days and we just talked and we just opened up and shared about our kids and what’s going on in the world. And that was the most amazing two and a half days. And yet I had not seen them. But maybe once in the last 18 years. But it was like yesterday, that’s a beautiful thing. 

M: That is amazing. And then my last question is just one trait that you are most uncomfortable about within yourself.

DR: Girl, that’s a hard one. Probably that I’m a huge planner and I drive my family crazy, sometimes. I already want to know where we’re going to go for my son’s college graduation that’s May 5th of next year. What restaurant are we going to? How many people are we going to invite? My son will say, “Mom, it’s August. This is not until next May, right?” And so because I am a planner, I sometimes irritate my family because they’re not planners. And so, I would probably say that that’s probably something that if I could, maybe.

M: But there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what makes you successful, right? 

DR: I know, but you know what I mean. You’re right. And I’m glad because it makes me more organized and that type of stuff. But it also is difficult. You know, it’s probably frustrating for people. And I’m always, like, thinking two years ahead and that kind of stuff. But you’re right in the sense that it’s part of why I’m successful. But I don’t know. That’s a hard one.

M: I have to say, but a good answer. Thank you, Dondra. That was fantastic. I’m so glad that we were able to do it. And you were right on cue with those answers. You were like, “oh, I got it.”

DR: And if there’s anything that you think was inappropriate or whatever, please feel free to tell me that. I’m wide open to that.

M: Oh, my God. No. Absolutely. And if I felt that you were, I would absolutely share it with you in a heartbeat. But I think we know that I’m absolutely psyched with the answers. That’s brilliant.

DR: Okay, terrific. Okay. So, we’re all set. I think we’ve got the time set on that day that we talked about. My hair guy is totally good. He’s going to take care of me. So, I’ll walk in with my hair done. All I need is makeup.

M: Fantastic. Yes. And we got you covered there. So don’t even worry. I will be sending out a call with the mood book and everything, I think by the end of day tomorrow. Okay.

DR: And you know what my one question is? Because my husband asked me this, and I didn’t ask you. Who nominated me? Like, I have no idea how I was able to receive this amazing award.

M: It comes from two sources, the way that our honorees are actually nominated. It is one by alumni honorees, because we get a lot of lady senders – people that they want to select and bring forward. And the other one is the internal team will do their due diligence and their work and find out who they want to celebrate. And those are the two ways that we look at and evaluate the footprint that these ladies are on and the changes that they’re making. 

DR: Oh, okay. I would just love to know.

M: Oh, I couldn’t tell you because I’m not involved in the selection process. I get involved in the logistics side. It’s ours and the team that goes through all of that. I can totally probe her and ask her. I know that we chased it for a long time, but we weren’t getting any answers because I think people were just busy and with COVID. And so in the end, we just copied you in the email because it was our last outreach, and you reached back and made it.

DR: Oh my God, that’s horrible.

M: It happens. We find that a lot of things end up in spam. A lot of things end up in areas where people are not able to reach the people that they want to reach. And we have had those instances where they’re like, “I can’t even believe that we didn’t get back to you. We didn’t know this was happening.” So, we’ve had all kinds of things happen like that. It’s quite common these days. I mean, you know yourself when you actually open a strange email, right?

DR: Yeah, for sure. But you have a fabulous evening and we’ll be talking. I’m sure over the next week. And thank you so much. And I’m looking forward to meeting you. You are one special agent. I appreciate it. 

M: Oh my God. I’m looking forward to a drink.

DR: I know, exactly. Both of us, for sure.