Castell Project examines diversity in hospitality leadership

Black women are 2.8 percent of all women shown at the director through CEO levels. Photo credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus / fizkes (Black women in leadership)

Officials of the nonprofit Castell Project, an organization dedicated to accelerating the careers of women professionals in the hospitality industry, has released the “Black Representation in Hospitality Leadership 2020” report, examining the role of Black leaders across the sector. The report was compiled ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Castell Project plans to release an update in January to show the impact on Black representation as the industry rehires.

“While Black women and men account for one in five hospitality jobs according to the U.S. Department of Labor, our research found they are a mere one in 65 hospitality industry executives at the director level or higher. This is the public face of the industry shown on corporate websites,” said Peggy Berg, chair of Castell Project. “The hospitality industry has long told the story that anyone can start at an entry-level position and reach leadership through sweat and hard work. Unfortunately, the numbers do not show this to be true for Black employees. We hope the statistics in this report will support negotiations and a real commitment to open opportunity to Black men and women.”

Three analysts captured information from the websites of 630 hotel companies listed in the STR Directory of Hotel & Lodging Companies. Each website was reviewed twice, and LinkedIn was used to verify some entries. Identification was made by visual inspection, and self-identification could vary. Data includes 630 hotel companies drawn from 971 companies that are based in the U.S. or Canada. The sample set has a minimum of five hotels and/or 700 rooms. The dataset includes 6,302 people.

Key Findings

In conducting the research for the report, the authors found that of the 630 hotel company websites reviewed, 84 percent do not show any Black executives on their websites, while only 102, or 16 percent, showed a Black employee at the director level or above.

Black executives represent 1.5 percent of hospitality industry executives at the director level or above on company websites, which is 12.5 times below their proportionate share of hospitality industry employment. Compared to the hospitality industry, which shows 1.5 percent of executive roles being held by Black people, organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry reports that they hold 5 percent of executive positions across all industries and 4 percent of executive positions at S&P 500 companies.

Black women’s representation in leadership is heavily weighted toward human resources, which employs 67 percent of Black women directors. Black male leaders are most found in operations and, to a lesser extent, in accounting/finance, notably at the director and VP levels. 

Because all women are under-represented, Black women are 2.8 percent of all women shown at the director through CEO levels. Because there are so many more total male executives, Black men are 1 percent of all men in these roles, an even smaller percent than Black women on a gender-to-gender basis.

“Diversity in leadership has not been a high priority for the hospitality industry,” Berg said. “With attention now, however, it can shape the future. This means being mindful of the post-coronavirus racial makeup of organizations and implementing best practices modeled by leading companies that have successfully diversified leadership across the economy.”

Castell Project produced this statistical report to add clarity at this moment when the hospitality industry is grappling with discrimination and bias. “In the process, we assessed our own organization and realized that we must do better,” the company said in a statement. “So, the board of the Castell Project will be racially diverse by the end of 2020. We also will implement measurable plans this year to make each of our initiatives significantly more inclusive. We will use our programs as catalysts to advance diversity and inclusion in the hospitality industry.”