THE BLOG
09/16/2014 12:16 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2014

The Envelope Please: The Impact of a Simple Expression of Gratitude

Yesterday, A Woman's Nation and I launched "The Envelope Please," a new economic empowerment initiative that encourages travelers to show their gratitude to an often overlooked section of the hospitality industry when it comes to tipping: room attendants. I am so excited to have Marriott International as our first partner.

Showing our gratitude for good work is something we can each do to make a difference on a person-to-person level. The initiative is an effort to shine a spotlight on a hardworking section of the workforce who deserve to be thanked for their efforts just like their bellhop, parking attendant and front desk counterparts.

In the most recent Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, we pushed individuals and companies alike to pay their employees a living wage and proposed solutions that government, businesses and individuals can adopt to make a difference. While I'm excited to see that the living wage conversation is happening on executive, national and local levels, I also know that we can't always rely on the government or businesses to make the big moves. There are all different kinds of ways we can each be a part of the solution to create a more conscious, caring and compassionate country. The Envelope Please is a solution meant to be adopted on an individual level.

The idea was conceived when I spoke to room attendants who took care of my room in hotels I've stayed in. Through their stories of hard work and perseverance I learned that cleaning staff, who are often the primary breadwinners for their families, are many times forgotten when it comes to tipping. Unlike other front-of-the-house hotel employees, most travelers don't see their room attendants face-to-face.

The facts revealed by this year's Shriver Report show that 42 million American working women and 28 million children are living in or on the brink of poverty. That devastating statistic, coupled with my own personal experience and the knowledge that when women make more money, they put those earnings back into the economy -- whether it's spent on children, household essentials or personal items -- creating more jobs and dueling our nation's economic engine, got me thinking about ways that each of us has the power to make a difference in the lives of others. The simple act of showing gratitude with a tip or a short note of thanks for the room attendants who take care of you when you're travelling is one way to help do that.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association Gratuity Guide suggests that hotel guests should leave $1 to $5 per night, depending on the hotel class, and recommends tipping daily rather than at checkout to ensure that it goes to the person cleaning your room. A practice the majority of travelers say they weren't even aware that they could, or should, be doing.

I applaud Marriott International for stepping up and joining A Woman's Nation to make "The Envelope Please" gratitude envelopes available in more than 160,000 Marriott-owned hotel guest rooms throughout the U.S. and Canada. I hope other hotels who didn't step up right away, will follow suit. And I hope travelers will support the cause by staying in A Woman's Nation-approved properties when they travel.

"The Envelope Please" has started a great conversation about tipping, wages and workers in this country. As always, there is much more work to be done. Every individual should be paid a fair living wage by not just hotels but by all businesses, governments and by anyone who hires someone to help them in their lives whether it's with children, parents or in their homes. But instead of focusing on what hasn't happened yet, let's focus on what is happening now. What we CAN do.

Each of us has the power to positively - and personally - impact the lives of others. The next time you travel, I hope you'll join me in expressing your gratitude for the behind-the-scenes work of so many.

A Woman's Nation is about igniting hearts and minds. "The Envelope Please" has ignited a conversation and for that I'm happy. I look forward to seeing it continue.