Women Empowerment in the Hospitality Industry

The tourism and hospitality sector has become an economic and social phenomenon, demonstrating above average growth for the fifth consecutive year since the 2009 economic crisis and being set to create 70 million new jobs over the next 10 years. Within the industry, women make up nearly 70% of the workforce, however paradoxically there is a marked under-representation of women in senior positions, with women holding less than 40% of all managerial positions, less than 20% of general management roles and between 5-8% of board positions. 

Barriers facing Women in Hospitality 

The gender challenges in the global hospitality industry highlight a range of barriers that are mostly socio-cultural but which also affect on wider economic and political 

  • Cultural traditions that are shows in differing ways and to varied degrees across most countries and communities which prescribe traditional gender roles and responsibilities in the home and workplace, thus reduce the opportunity for women to progress to the highest levels in organisations. 
  • Education systems in many countries that continue to orientate men and women into specific work and domestic roles. 
  • Role stereotyping that sees women divide into roles in specific departments of hotels such as housekeeping, front office and human resource management from which promotion to senior operational and leadership roles may be difficult. 
  • Workplace role models that reinforce these stereotypes. 
  • A combination of overt and implicit discrimination against women at all stages of the recruitment and promotion/ opportunity cycle, despite equal opportunities legislation in many countries. 
  • Workplace cultures and expectations in hospitality that disadvantage women who aspire to a reasonable balance between work and family (child and elder) care responsibilities. 
  • Aspirational and laudable corporate policies in major hospitality companies that support opportunity for women on an equal footing to men and, in some cases, provide additional positive action to enable women to progress in organisations. However, such policies and programmes rarely extend to include the increasingly diverse and extended supply chain that is in place in companies that outsource services across a range of front- and back-of-house functions. 

Women represent at least half of the talent available to organisations and economies in most countries. Ignoring this talent pool puts at risk the competitiveness of both companies and the economies in which they operate. Effectively managing the talent pipeline is essential for meeting companies human capital and enables them to better produce, distribute and deliver their goods. 

That clearly demonstrates the need and opportunity to better take advantage on the role of women as a key component of the talent pipeline within the sector to the deep benefit of the global industry as well as individuals and communities where tourism is active. 

It is clear that the industry does not demonstrate one single solution that will address the underrepresentation of women in senior positions within the industry. Despite this, I believe in the business benefits of diversity and motivation across the industry, to better enable women to drive the future of the industry. 

This article was inspired by Meghan Markle’s Incredibly Powerful Speech on Gender Equality From 2015 and I hope it will reshaped your notion of what is possible.

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