Pandemic hits diversity

Diversity and inclusion had dropped down the priority list for boards and senior leaders over the last six months. Photo credit: RawPixel via Unsplash

Existing imbalances and discrepancies in the representation of women and ethnic minorities in the hospitality sector are being exacerbated by COVID-19, according to a study from the MBS Group, PwC and Women in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure. The report found that diversity and inclusion had dropped down the priority list for boards and senior leaders over the past six months.

Fifteen percent of companies interviewed reported that diversity and inclusion had been raised at board meetings regularly over the last period, with 42 percent saying it had come up infrequently and 43 percent not at all.

The trio reported that a higher proportion of women had been furloughed, put on reduced hours or made redundant (65 percent) than men (56 percent). In turn, 67 percent of employees from ethnic minorities had been furloughed, put on reduced hours or made redundant, compared to 62 percent of white colleagues.

The report found that more women and people from ethnic minorities had accepted voluntary redundancy packages than men due to caring responsibilities or because their roles were more easily transferable to other sectors.

Many leaders in the hospitality sector reported that those in non-sector-specific roles that tend to have higher proportions of female and diverse candidates in might choose to exit the business in favor of lower-risk industries.

Leadership Roles

To further exacerbate the issue, mass restructures had decreased the number of visible female and ethnic minorities role models in the sector, long understood to play a key role in motivating diverse employees to progress and encouraging diverse candidates to enter the industry.

“As a sector, we do have the opportunity to turn COVID-19 into a watershed moment—an opportunity to move the dial positively on D&I.  With creativity and an informed approach, inevitable restructures could enable new and diverse talent to emerge. Put simply: Businesses that fail to prioritize D&I—especially now—will suffer as they find themselves outrun by their more forward-thinking competitors, whose leadership is fully representative of their consumer base,” said Elliott Goldstein, managing partner, The MBS Group.

Katy Bennett, director, people consulting, PwC, said: ”Our survey found an encouraging level of support for staff during an exceptionally difficult and stressful time. However, a significant proportion of HTL workers have felt insufficiently supported or protected, particularly from a personal safety perspective. And these concerns were highest amongst sections of the workforce that may already have faced discrimination.

“Our survey also found that these groups were more likely to have been furloughed, faced cuts in hours or been made redundant, although few felt that either their gender or ethnicity were a contributing factor to their experience. For many companies, collecting and considering diversity data as part of key decisions on pay and employment is a critical first step. More generally, organizations that are conscious of the particular issues facing their female and Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers, can actively build a more inclusive culture, which will give them a clear edge in winning over customers and developing innovative solutions to help their businesses survive and thrive.”

In July, Hilton and InterContinental Hotels Group were among a group of hospitality companies to sign up to the BITC Race at Work Charter.

Keith Barr, CEO, IHG, said: “IHG is a truly global company and our colleagues represent multiple nationalities, as well as the many cultures, religions, races, sexualities, backgrounds and beliefs that make the world such a vibrant place. We want our culture to be truly reflective of that, and we know we must do more to bring about change for the long-term in a meaningful, actionable way. The commitments in the BITC Race at Work Charter will help us to build on the work we are already doing to achieve this.”

This article originally appeared on Hospitality Insights. To read the full story, please sign up to a 60-day free trial here