International Women’s Day: Celebrating Women in Hospitality


Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. For well over a decade, the day marks the celebration of the social, political, economic, and cultural achievements of women around the globe, and throughout history! The movement has its roots in the twentieth century in North America and across Europe, with the first celebration occurring on February 28th, 1909, in New York City.

Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a global dimension. People all around the world have mobilized for a future of women’s rights, equality, and justice.

We Have Come a Long Way, but How Does the Hospitality Industry Measure Up?

In the hospitality workforce, women have an average participation of 55.5% at a global scale. However, they are usually represented in lower paid or skilled areas of the hotel, catering and tourism work - notably housekeeping and customer service - as outlined in the International Perspectives on Women and Work in Hotels, Catering, and Tourism report of 2013 by Cornell University.

In the UK, women make up 26% of senior management positions in the hospitality and travel industries, as stated by the Hampton-Alexander Review of 2017. However, when the report excludes human resources positions, the number falls to 20%. On a global perspective, their representation maintains a similar note as only 25% of women occupy senior roles in all businesses, as indicated in the Women in Business Report of 2017 by Grant Thornton.

Women also earn significantly less than men in the industry. According to a research made at Swinburne University, women recieve 8.5% less than men in tourism and 7.5% less in hospitality. Nevertheless, the sector sets a positive example for women in the workplace. Hospitality places 3rd on the highest percentage of female managers worldwide at 33%, reported by Forbes in 2015. There has also been an increase of women in senior management positions across all businesses and regions when compared to last year’s data as reported by Grant Thornton.

Proportion of senior management roles held by women

Proportion of senior management roles held by women

Source: Grant Thornton Women in Business Report of 2017

How Can We Keep Improving? Hospitality Leaders, Advice:

There are many factors at play for this imbalance in the workplace, including gender preconceptions women face such as difficulty finding work-life balance, childbearing, and choosing family over a career. The glass ceiling phenomenon, a concept that derives from the stereotypes concerning women, their roles, and their paternal duties - for the ones that have chosen to pursue motherhood - represents some of the barriers and obstacles that have prevented women in the past from rising to managerial and leadership positions.

Old-fashioned ideals about what makes an effective leader, mixed with prejudices women faced of not having the required leadership style, is another obstacle women have to overcome in the workforce. Judy Hou, Managing Director of the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, believes women don’t have to imitate their male counterparts to be successful leaders.

"Some people tend to say women leaders are more emotional or women leaders are timider, but that’s incorrect to say. Just with the word ‘strong’ it doesn’t mean that you have to act like ‘the man.’ It’s more of understanding who you are, the value that you can add as an individual female leader to the organisation, and finding your own place."

Carme Ruscalleda, the seven-Michelin-starred chef, says it’s crucial that women push themselves towards leadership roles.

"Some women put brakes in their lives. How will I organize myself, how will they see me, how will they analyze me? The first woman that has to believe in you, is yourself. If you believe in your values, in your talent, in your work, and in your ideas, you will convince those who listen to you. Believe in yourself, and prove it."

This is the first video in our Leading Women in Hospitality series, where top chefs, general managers, and C-level executives share unique career advice on what it takes to reach the top. In the following weeks to come we’ll unveil more in-depth interviews ranging in topics from mentorship, work-life balance, and values women bring to the industry. Stay tuned and don’t miss out on the unique opportunity to learn from leading professionals in hospitality!



More related content EN