Striv­ing to­ward women’s equal op­por­tu­ni­ties in hos­pi­tal­ity

Hospitality News Middle East - - CONTENTS - A gen­der-bilin­gual cor­po­rate culture

Hos­pi­tal­ity or­ga­ni­za­tions have been at the heart of nu­mer­ous stud­ies fo­cused on gen­der is­sues, as women, whether guests, em­ploy­ees or lead­ers, con­front and deal with dilem­mas re­lated to this hot topic. Chirine Salha, se­nior con­sul­tant at Ulysses Con­sult­ing, dis­cusses what needs to be done to level the play­ing field in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try

It’s over­whelm­ingly ev­i­dent that women in hos­pi­tal­ity are still neg­li­gi­bly rep­re­sented at se­nior man­age­rial lev­els. ‘In the ho­tel world, glob­ally, women di­rec­tors oc­cupy ap­prox­i­mately 24 per­cent of all board seats at pub­licly listed com­pa­nies. The best-rank­ing ho­tel group is In­tercon­ti­nen­tal Ho­tels Group with a 40 per­cent fe­male board direc­tor rep­re­sen­ta­tion’. IHG was also listed in the 2017 Hamp­ton-alexan­der Re­view as one of the top 10 com­pa­nies in the FTSE 100 for fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion across the board.

Al­though hos­pi­tal­ity is not unique in strug­gling to re­cruit women into lead­er­ship ranks, it is un­like oth­ers, in that there is a large enough pool of fe­male hos­pi­tal­ity grad­u­ates and fe­male tal­ent to do so, with more women than men ini­tially en­ter­ing the in­dus­try. They are, how­ever, fail­ing to progress to the high­est ranks and com­pa­nies are fail­ing in lev­er­ing all avail­able tal­ent, re­gard­less of gen­der.

Why gen­der di­ver­sity

In an in­dus­try such as ours, where women also make up a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the clien­tele, the ben­e­fits of em­ploy­ing more women in se­nior level po­si­tions ex­tend to that same cus­tomer base. They bring a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive in serv­ing and de­sign­ing prod­ucts for the fairer sex. So pro­mot­ing gen­der eq­uity in the work­place isn’t about hir­ing women for the sake of it, or reach­ing a quota in an at­tempt to make a dif­fer­ence; it is about mak­ing sound man­age­ment de­ci­sions, in re­al­iz­ing that each gen­der con­trib­utes dif­fer­ent skills and qual­i­ties to a busi­ness.

Women fo­cus more on the in­ter­per­sonal com­po­nents of a ser­vice in­ter­ac­tion. In Hos­pi­tal­ity News Jun-jul 2018 Is­sue 118, most of the 35 in­flu­en­tial women in hos­pi­tal­ity agreed that a high level of emo­tional in­tel­li­gence, an eye for de­tail and es­thet­ics, pa­tience, em­pa­thy, fair­ness and flex­i­bil­ity were the main ad­van­tages and con­tribut­ing fac­tors women can bring to the in­dus­try. They are, by na­ture, care­givers, and in that mind­set, are pre­dis­posed to mul­ti­task­ing, look­ing af­ter a ho­tel as if a home and build­ing on emo­tional con­nec­tiv­ity with staff and cus­tomers.

A cor­re­la­tion be­tween woman in ex­ec­u­tive lev­els and cor­po­rate per­for­mance, bet­ter busi­ness re­sults, be­ing fair and bring­ing a pos­i­tive im­age to the com­pany are the com­pelling rea­sons to strive for gen­der equal­ity.

Di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion prac­tices

There­fore, if we view the best-in-class hos­pi­tal­ity or­ga­ni­za­tions to­day through a gen­der spe­cific lens, di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion prac­tices are very high up on most ho­tel com­pa­nies’ lists. Th­ese com­pa­nies are com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing pro­duc­tive work­ing re­la­tion­ships be­tween var­i­ous stake­hold­ers and ac­com­mo­dat­ing dif­fer­ent tal­ents. It is not that com­pa­nies do not want to pro­pel women to the higher lead­er­ship ranks; rather, they do not know how. The gen­uine, best in­ten­tions are there, but the re­sults are poor.

The re­ten­tion chal­lenge

At­tract­ing fe­male tal­ent is not the is­sue; the chal­lenge is con­vinc­ing them to stay on this ca­reer path. The unique fea­tures of the hos­pi­tal­ity en­vi­ron­ment put great strain on women try­ing to bal­ance a ca­reer and a fam­ily, and its na­ture makes it among the most dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­ments for women seek­ing ca­reer ad­vance­ment and per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion. We are lit­er­ally ‘mar­ried to the job’.

With re­gards to re­ten­tion chal­lenge, com­pa­nies suf­fer from women who quit the in­dus­try be­fore they reach their full po­ten­tial, mostly be­cause they feel they can­not com­bine fam­ily and ca­reer. Faced with this dilemma, fam­ily al­ways wins the power strug­gle. When women reach the stage where they want to start fam­i­lies or look af­ter el­derly par­ents, they are no longer able to com­mit to the same long and ir­reg­u­lar hours or de­mand­ing shifts. Fre­quent travel re­quire­ments or re­lo­ca­tion also add to the stress for women, and there are very few al­ter­na­tives of­fer­ing the flex­i­bil­ity they need to stay in their ca­reers, nor are there any ini­tia­tives to en­cour­age them to re­turn to work at a later stage in their lives.

Women reach high-level roles in de­part­ments that have be­come stereo­typed, such as HR, PR, mar­ket­ing and some­times fi­nance, but this ex­pe­ri­ence isn’t suf­fi­ciently di­verse. It is a known fact that ex­po­sure and ex­pe­ri­ence across var­i­ous de­part­ments are the real added value to reach se­nior ranks within our in­dus­try.

Es­tab­lish­ing an ecosys­tem of gen­der di­ver­sity

Com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly faced with de­clin­ing em­ployee loy­alty and em­ployee re­ten­tion. To tap into the fe­male tal­ent seg­ment, they need a com­pre­hen­sive ecosys­tem of gen­der di­ver­sity mea­sures to im­ple­ment change. This should in­clude:

- cas­caded down through from CEO and

gain­ing com­mit­ment from ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment by set­ting yearly goals.

- by al­lo­cat­ing role mod­els and men­tors to guide, pro­vide ca­reer ad­vice and cham­pion change. This will also cre­ate an at­mos­phere of trust and open­ness for fe­male staff to ex­press them­selves and com­mu­ni­cate with trans­parency.

- Cel­e­brat­ing dif­fer­ence and em­brace

in­di­vid­u­al­ity: women and men tend to have dif­fer­ent and com­ple­men­tary lead­er­ship qual­i­ties, a di­ver­sity that should be cel­e­brated, as op­posed to be­ing neu­tral­ized with your typ­i­cal lead­er­ship eval­u­a­tion tools that are more tai­lored to­wards men’s man­age­rial style than those of women.

- Con­sid­er­a­tion of non-tra­di­tional roles that can be filled by women, such as ex­ec­u­tive chef, and po­si­tions in engi­neer­ing and se­cu­rity, em­ploy­ing tal­ent based on role re­quire­ments. ap­pro­pri­ate bench­marks, lever­ag­ing and ap­pre­ci­at­ing women’s be­hav­ioral frame­work, as op­posed to pres­sur­ing women to fit the ex­pec­ta­tions of how men lead and de­liver re­sults. Women must find and de­velop their own lead­er­ship style

It is not that com­pa­nies do not want to pro­pel women to the higher lead­er­ship ranks; rather, they do not know how. The gen­uine, best in­ten­tions are there in or­der to progress. For women to be suc­cess­ful, they do not need to act like men or be eval­u­ated like men; this is where a gen­der-neu­tral en­vi­ron­ment is em­braced.

- Cus­tom-made ben­e­fit prac­tices; set­ting an in­fra­struc­ture that makes it eas­ier to in­te­grate ca­reer and fam­ily, such as a choice of ser­vices and ben­e­fits that are at­trac­tive to moth­ers (for ex­am­ple, day­care, sched­ule flex­i­bil­ity, sav­ing plans and fam­ily car). Th­ese ben­e­fits should em­brace the dif­fer­ent needs at dif­fer­ent stages of the fe­male em­ployee’s ca­reer and per­sonal life.

- Ex­plore con­crete ways to im­ple­ment

this culture, such as ad­dress­ing part-time op­tions, day­care ben­e­fits, a gen­er­ous parental leave pro­gram (both ma­ter­nal and pa­ter­nal), and un­paid hours op­tions. It is im­per­a­tive to elim­i­nate the con­cept that if a woman works part-time, she is not fully com­mit­ted to her ca­reer. IGH has achieved a 95 per­cent re­turn to work af­ter parental leave from its fe­male tal­ent, by im­ple­ment­ing a gen­er­ous parental leave pro­gram (Pin­na­cle Peo­ple, 25/03/16).

- Have a wider win­dow of op­por­tu­nity

for reach­ing the top: women might need to put a tem­po­rary halt on their ca­reer at their peak or just be­fore their peak when fu­ture ‘High Po­ten­tials’ are be­ing eyed and iden­ti­fied for de­vel­op­ment. This of­ten co­in­cides with their child-rear­ing and fam­ily-mak­ing time, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for them to get back in the game when they have been out­stepped by men dur­ing their ab­sence.

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