BC resort CEO placed on leave after making sexist joke at conference

The CEO of a BC resort has been placed on leave and has resigned from his role on two tourism industry boards after making a sexist joke while speaking at a conference earlier this week.

According to witnesses who posted about the incident on social media, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort CEO Vivek Sharma asked the women in attendance to stand up in honor of International Women’s Day, which was the day before the speech.

He concluded his acknowledgment of the women present by telling them to “go clean rooms” and “do dishes.”

Sharma attempted to apologize for his remark at the event, and the leaders of the Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC) and the BC Hotel Association issued an apology of their own on social media later that evening.

“During a tribute to the incredible women of our industry at the opening of the 2022 BC Tourism and Hospitality Conference, an insensitive and hurtful comment was made that was completely inappropriate and deeply upsetting to all women, and indeed, all delegates of the event, said TIABC CEO Walt Judas and BCHA president and CEO Ingrid Jarrett in the March 9 statement.

“What was originally intended as a salute and acknowledgment of the tremendous contribution, talent, skill and professionalism of our female tourism and hospitality colleagues, instead resulted in a stark reminder of how far we have to go to achieve equality, respect and empowerment for the women of our sector.”

Sharma was a member of both the TIABC and BCHA boards, but resigned those posts in a written apology issued March 15.

In it, he said he’s “very sorry” and regrets “deeply” the comments that he made.

“My unacceptable remarks did not set the intended tone for the conference and consequently placed TIABC and BCHA’s board and staff in a very difficult position,” Sharma said.

“I am also mindful that what I said does not reflect the views of either TIABC or BCHA, both of whom have worked hard to advocate for the tenets of equality, inclusion, and diversity in our sector. I’ve spent many years working alongside these reputable organizations to help our industry grow and flourish. As a result of my recent conduct, I have let down valued colleagues who love and care about me.”

The fallout continued Friday, when Fairmont Hot Springs Resort announced that it had placed Sharma on leave and hired a third-party consultant to “conduct an independent review into the matter.”

“Any discrimination is not acceptable and Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is dedicated to creating an inclusive and diverse atmosphere, where people feel safe to work, visit or conduct business,” the resort said.

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