2021 Honoree

Dondra Ritzenthaler

SVP Sales & TSS, Celebrity Cruises

“… 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.”

What quality makes a Power Woman?

I think I would say resilience.

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.

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?

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 and say, “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?” It’s just a natural way that women have—to be assisting as much as possible. But, I think right now in the pandemic, it is really incumbent upon all of us to do everything that we can do to wipe this thing out.

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

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?

I think the answer to your question is both. I think gender equality, and not just gender equality, but diversity and inclusion in general—with accepting people’s ethnicity, lifestyle, gender. It’s incumbent upon us all over the world to make things better. When it comes to gender equality, not only do I think it’s global for that and others, but then in our business. In celebrity cruises, the food industry, 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. I’m really proud of our company because we have done so much to turn that around. Everything from Captain Kate, who you have honored as a power woman in the past, going in and concentrating on finding qualified women to be on the bridge and to get that more in balance. When you see corporations and CEOs across the United States, they 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. We wanted to keep working on that gender equality, but not because we’re just women. It’s because we’re equally bright, equally resilient, equally strategic, and we have to continue to let the world know that and give ourselves and put ourselves in positions that we can balance that a little bit more—in those sea ranks and places like bridges on ships or in the cockpit of airplanes.

I also want to say that giving people the same opportunity and the same respect—whether you are Muslim or Indian, or 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.

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?

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 that we, as women, have to be more bold and more confident. We have to expect more, and I think we do that. I think that when we are 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 men feel like that. So, I think we have to be more brave and not worry about being so perfect because that will give us even more opportunities as a female population. But, then the second part of what we need to do is bring awareness to corporations, organizations, or just women groups, like this, that are coming together to celebrate the power of women. 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.

We need to stay and give them awareness. Make sure everybody’s aware. Do it in a very positive way, and then expect action. Expect that it makes a difference.

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?

One of the things that is 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, to answer your question, banning asking about 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 let’s ban it, but ban it for everyone.

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?

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.

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 it 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 exists sometimes, of course, and 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 a man might be doing.

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?

Absolutely. I think that everybody in life gets a couple of gifts and I think that my gift was that 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, but I didn’t need a new bicycle and I really didn’t even want a bicycle. I just wanted to win, and that continued. So I have this inherent, competitive will to win, which has always driven me. I played sports all the way through middle school, high school, and college and I had this big drive to win. So, I knew that sales was where I needed to be. 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. Then after about nine months, I started my first sales job, and that was when I knew I was home—I knew that is exactly where I needed to be because it felt so natural. It felt like selling those cookies again. It was comfortable for me. 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. 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. They really embraced me, which is why I do that now. It’s like paying it forward because now I do the same thing for these young, dynamic women who are coming into the workplace. I mentor them and I teach them. I make sure that they’re the future leaders, just like the people at American and the leaders at Celebrity Cruises did it for me. It was really that and then the other story that really impacted the way that I manage. 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. You already have a youth. You need to surround yourself with people that are really good at the things that you are not the most confident in.” I can tell you honestly that that piece of advice changed the way that I hire people. It changed the way I surround myself. I really do believe that’s been one of the best success stories that I could share with you.

What was the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?

That by far is it. He went on to say it’s sort of like swiss cheese. You put yourself in the middle and there’s holes, and what you’ve got to do is plug in those holes. 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.” I have lived by that for so many years, and I’ve been so successful because I listen to these people. It makes me a better leader because I know that I’m not always the smartest one in the room. I love learning from my team.

If you could have somebody else’s job for a day, who would it be and why?

This is a bit random, but I really love sports. I’ve grown up with sports and I think that sports is so loved, admired, and respected, so I’ll say Roger Goodell, who’s the Commissioner of the NFL. If I could have his job one day I would probably do that because I think 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.

See, most women aren’t into sports to the same level as I am. But, I also know that sports figures have a huge, massive influence, and I also think they can really embrace change. So, I hope that’s not way too out there, but that’s what entered my mind.

Best read?

Oh, I love this question. It’s a book called “How She Really Does It.” I’ve read many books for pleasure, but, 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. It really transformed my life because, as women who have these amazing careers and who are also moms, sometimes we struggle with the balance between being a mom and being an executive. How do you find that balance? And you worry about how this is going to impact my children. Are they going to feel loved and secured? Am I going to miss too many 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. It was a really good read.

What do you most value in friends?

I value loyalty, honesty, companionship, friendship, and love. 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 talk when you’re frustrated with what’s going on. I think that friendships for women are really important. I think loyalty is what I look for in a friend. Here’s an example: if I called them at 3:00 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.

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. We all met 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 opened up and shared about our kids and what’s going on in the world. That was the most amazing two and a half days, and yet I had not seen them except for maybe once in the last 18 years. But it was like yesterday, that’s a beautiful thing.

What is just one trait that you are most uncomfortable about within yourself?

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: 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?” Because I’m a planner, I sometimes irritate my family because they’re not planners.

I’m glad because it makes me more organized and that type of stuff, but it’s also difficult. It’s probably frustrating for people. I’m always thinking two years ahead, but it’s part of why I’m successful.

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