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Women in Business: Q&A with Jan Swartz, President of Princess Cruises

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As president of Princess Cruises, Jan Swartz heads one of the best-known brands in the cruise industry, overseeing a worldwide cruise and tour company featuring a fleet of 17 modern ships that carry approximately 1.7 million passengers a year. The third largest cruise line in the industry, Princess has more than 25,000 employees, and operations in more than 60 countries around the globe. Princess Cruises is part of Carnival Corporation & plc, one of the world's largest leisure travel companies.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Travel has long been a personal and professional passion of mine. I believe that as citizens of the world, we share much in common and can learn from one another. Diversity of perspective leads organizations to better answers. This philosophy serves me well as I am honored to lead an organization with 22,000 employees from more than 70 countries and 1.7M passengers from more than 180 countries.

How did your previous employment experience aid your position at Princess Cruises?
At Bain & Company, I worked with leading Fortune 500 consumer product and service companies on their critical strategic issues. This experience gave me a breadth of exposure that is unusual for a young professional. I then went on to run a dot-com start-up where I learned some important life lessons - for example, that talent and cash are key in a small business. Both of these experiences were extremely useful as I now lead a large organization which is well established in many developed countries, but is also a start-up in newer markets to cruising like China and Japan.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I try to identify the most critical activities that I personally and uniquely can do in each role I play in life (e.g., wife, mother, president, friend, women and children's advocate) and then I delegate the rest to highly capable people.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Princess Cruises?
Highlights include completing the 2003 acquisition of P&O/Princess, the largest international cruise group at the time, by Carnival Corporation, meeting HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, when she named Royal Princess in England last summer, and pioneering cruising in Asia by opening 11 offices across the region.

Our industry has faced many challenges over the last several years, not the least of which was telling the positive story of why 21 million people cruise each year around the world. Sometimes, the facts that we offer vacations at a tremendous value and help people create cherished lifelong memories gets ignored by the media.

What are the latest trends in the cruise industry and how is Princess capitalizing upon them?
I believe that events like the Global Financial Crisis have reminded us all about what is most important in life: our family, friends and communities. Life is not about the things we purchase but rather about the experiences we share. Princess' latest advertising campaign speaks to the opportunity that a Princess cruise will deliver meaningful travel experiences that change you for the better and you will "come back new."

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The majority of women in America now work in the home as well as outside the home. They need to have similar representation at the highest levels of companies. This can be achieved by sharing responsibilities at home and advocating their ideas at the office.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I applaud her effort to spark a dialogue about what we can all be doing differently to achieve career progression.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have been very fortunate in that I have had several mentors throughout my education and career at Bain and Princess. They have coached me along the way with encouragement and specific feedback on how to improve. I also regularly seek advice from many people I admire.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire many women who lead important organizations while still retaining a sense of humor and compassion about life and themselves (e.g., Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi; and Sonia Sotomayor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court).

What are your hopes for the future of Princess Cruises?
My hope is that Princess Cruises can profitably grow by delivering fantastic, memorable vacations to millions of people from around the world, and by becoming the employer of choice within the hospitality business.