The recently released 2020 Women In Hospitality Report offers evidence of continued progress for female lodging executives both in terms of getting into positions of leadership as well as taking on more speaking roles at key industry events.
The report was unveiled last week by officials of Castell Project., Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the careers of women professionals in the hospitality industry.
Peggy Berg, president, Castell Project, Inc., underscored the importance of the organization’s efforts during the recent ALIS Conference. “The fact is that companies that have diverse leadership in study after study are more profitable, better run, growing faster, and have stronger stock [results]…Diversity also gives you a much bigger talent pool,” she noted.
Berg acknowledged there have been some ups and downs in terms of progress since the Castell Project was formed a few years ago but believes the numbers are trending in the right direction. “I think we’re at kind of a turning point as an industry,” she stated.
According to the latest Women In Hospitality report -- which is now in its third year -- seven women were promoted to CEO in 2018/2019 in the dataset represented by the STR Directory of Hotel & Lodging Companies marking a 20 percent increase.
“I was just really tickled when I delved into the data, I think it’s kind of remarkable. It’s not just ‘we’ll have a woman in the list of candidates, but we’ll seriously consider women candidates.’ There’s some value there,” said Berg.
In addition, women held 8 percent of hospitality industry leadership positions in 2019, including managing director, president, partner, principal and CEO roles in both datasets used in the study. The hotel company dataset showed 18 percent of company leaders were women compared to 14 percent in the more real estate-oriented conference dataset.
According to the study, one in four presenters at hotel investment conferences were women in 2019 as opposed to 2016 when that figure was merely one in eight.
“These investment conferences are high-profile events for our industry where speakers build their names and reputations. The conference leadership has really I think come through for the industry starting to show not just more diverse talent but more voices,” said Berg.
Furthermore, the study reported that women in hotel companies remain most strongly represented in leadership roles in accounting, human resources, legal, marketing and revenue management. Operations and asset management are getting stronger representation at the VP level and are expected to see improvement at the EVP/SVP level and above soon. Meanwhile, IT and investment related fields are strongly skewed toward men.
Furthermore, women represent 21 percent of investment conference attendees, which is nearly flat over the past four years. Brokerage, finance and construction segments continue to have women even at the VP and director levels, according to the study.
Berg went on to detail the progress she’s seen over the past few years in terms of the lodging industry specifically.
“It’s very broad. We’re seeing more recognition among corporate leadership that there’s a reason to do it. I think we’re seeing more understanding that it’s not something that’s just going to happen because somebody said it one time.
“You actually have to have a plan and execute a program. You have to set targets and reward for those targets and then you make progress. I think we’re collectively as an industry learning that’s how you do it and we’re starting to see the results,” she noted.
As an example, when asked about the progress of the two largest hotel companies in Marriott and Hilton as it relates to diversity in the workforce, Berg was effusive in her praise.
“As you look across all companies across all industries Hilton and Marriott are stand-outs for how well they’ve been working through the challenges of cultural change through diversity and they started a long time ago. They’ve learned a whole lot through the process, they do really innovative things and people like working with them,” she noted.
Berg elaborated on why it’s so critical for the lodging industry to make sure women are in prominent positions going forward.
“Each industry has its own initiatives that are trying to move it in that direction, but we are more dependent on a female labor force than most other industries. We are more dependent on a female decision maker than most. Something between 70 and 80 percent of travel purchases are made by women and we’re not in sync with our market. I think it’s more important for us; we have more riding on this transition than most other industries do,” she concluded.