For International Women’s Day, our YCI Partnerships Manager for South Asia based in Delhi – Shiksha Khemani – wrote about some of the challenges she sees women facing within the hospitality industry and what needs to change.
The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the most successful and thriving sectors supported by a female-centric workforce. Research shows there is worldwide scope for job opportunities for women. According to figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council, by the year 2019 there would be 275 million jobs in the hospitality sector and it is predicted that it may be predominantly populated by women.
Despite knowing these facts and figures, the industry can be a very challenging environment for women workers, particularly outside the western world.
I’ve noted some of the major challenges I see women facing:
Gender discrimination and long hours – a lot of job opportunities are more focused on male candidates; especially in operational departments. These candidates are often preferred due to outdated notions like men being more physically capable and able to work for long hours. This is despite women having repeatedly demonstrated that they have equal strength and capabilities to handle the job.
When there are opportunities for promotion again the male candidates are often preferred or see progression more quickly.
In addition, since women are often still considered the home-makers and carers for children and older family members, longer hours or shift-work may work for or against women and their ability to fulfil both roles.
External prejudice – Although women have increased their human capital through improving their education, and have proved their mettle in the workplace, it’s not always as easy as having the skills and determination.
A lot of the time we also see challenges from outside the industry where a woman’s community and family feel they should not seek work in this industry. The reasons are varied but include the demands of the job – standing and working for long hours. In addition some people equate hotels with sex work, or they believe illegal activity goes on there and therefore think it’s not an appropriate environment for women.
Hotels need employees – of both genders. We need to engage more female participation in the industry at all levels because roles are diverse and there are many opportunities for men and women alike to progress and shine in a range of departments. But on International Women’s Day we recognise that we also need to change the way society views the industry. We talk about equal opportunity but often it’s hard to see any progress being made.
The Youth Career Initiative is working with its partners – local non-profits and leading hotel groups – to provide opportunities to disadvantaged young women and men around the world. We help them experience a range of roles within a hotel and discover the one which most suits their talents and interests. Together we show them how the industry can help them thrive and often they learn that the reality of working life within a hotel is very different from that which they imagined.
But whilst we’re helping change opinions from within the industry, we also need to see a change in how societal norms regard women and their roles.
Equal opportunity could be prioritised though a range of organisations’ programmes that support women to achieve all they can be. The talent pool within the industry needs to grow and change. Some hotel groups mentor women and support them to achieve more senior positions, for example Carlson Rezidor’s Women in Leadership programme and the recently announced RISE initiative helping women in IHG to reach leadership roles.
Programmes like these help change the perception of women’s participation in the industry; we should not limit ourselves but need to look beyond and explore opportunities that capitalise on women’s talent.
Some of these recommendations require the removal of practical obstacles to female participation in the hospitality workplace. This will call for robust dialogue between hospitality enterprises, trade unions, national governments and other key players, such as civil society to bring about change.