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For the first time, all 4 Walt Disney World theme parks are led by women

"These five women are breaking barriers and encouraging so many women at Walt Disney World to follow their dreams," the theme park wrote in its blog.
Credit: Disney/Walt Disney World

ORLANDO, Fla. — Looks like Walt Disney World will operate off of both magic and girl power as all four of the Florida theme parks are run by women for the first time in history.

The Orlando parks were complete with the addition of Disney's Animal Kingdom in 1998, meaning in the nearly 23 years that the top spots existed, never once have women swept the lineup-- until now.

Disney calls the group of influential women its "Fab Five" with Vice Presidents Jackie Swisher, Kartika Rodriguez, Melissa Valiquette, Linda Reid, and Sarah Riles leading the way at the "Most Magical Place on Earth."

"These five women are breaking barriers and encouraging so many women at Walt Disney World to follow their dreams," the theme park wrote in its blog.

Each woman brings her own set of values and experience to the role. For example, Jackie Swisher who runs operations at Disney's Hollywood Studios is said to focus on creating an inclusive and progressive environment for her team.

“I think it’s important to learn from women (and men) who don’t look like me or who have an opinion that is different than mine," Swisher told the Disney Parks Blog.

They're also pushing gender boundaries in fields that are typically labeled as male-dominated. 

“Other women inspire me by their stories of overcoming their own obstacles. Every one of us has a story of resilience and endurance—having the courage to be vulnerable and share these stories is powerful social medicine for our time," Vice President of Security, Linda Reid told Disney.

It's a sentiment Melissa Valiquette, who leads the way at the Magic Kingdom echos. The vice president of what is arguably Walt Disney World's most popular park says she used to take her cues from her male peers until she met former Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton.

“Through her example, I learned that leadership shines through, regardless of size, volume, or gender. I began to embrace my own inherent style that allowed me to grow and feel comfortable in my own skin," Valiquette told Disney.

And sometimes the importance of this moment for the theme park giant is just as simple as having the opportunity to see women supporting women.

It's definitely something Sarah Riles, who oversees Disney's Animal Kingdom, told Disney drives her pride to serve in her new role alongside "other strong female role models."

Diversity and representation are also at the forefront of the theme park's historic hires and promotions, according to the Disney Parks Blog.

Kartika Rodriguez, vice president of  Epcot, has spent 21 years with the company and is the first Black woman to fill the role of vice president at a Walt Disney World theme park. 

“I remember thinking ‘I too, could have the opportunity to one day be a senior leader in this organization," she told Disney. 

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