Castell Project: Progress made in women leadership numbers

Woman Lean In
Overall, women held 12 percent of hospitality industry leadership positions in 2019, including managing director, president, partner, principal and CEO roles. Photo credit: Getty//Digital Vision

The hotel industry made strides toward gender parity in 2019 with improvements in several categories, according to the Castell Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the careers of women professionals in hospitality. The group just released its "2020 Women in Hospitality Industry Leadership" report, which showed an increase in the total number of female CEOs, a rise in female presenters at hotel investment conferences and stronger representation in operations and asset management at the VP level. 

Castell Project President Peggy Berg said that though a great deal of distance remains before the industry reaches true gender parity, “we were delighted to find the pendulum starting to swing in the proper direction.”

Related Story: Castell Project report advocates women's leadership

“We are seeing an acceleration of women in leadership roles across the political, civic and business spectrum,” Berg continued. “This is supported by the pipeline of graduates coming out of colleges and universities, by the strong and deep bench of female talent currently at work in numerous industries, including hospitality, by the opportunities created as baby boomers retire, by the share of wealth now controlled by women and by widespread interest among both men and women in realizing the benefits of this cultural shift.”


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Representation in Hotel Companies

Looking at the data set represented by the STR Directory of Hotel & Lodging Companies, Castell Project found seven women were promoted to CEO in 2018 and 2019. This translated to a 20 percent increase in the total number of female CEOs.

Overall, women held 12 percent of hospitality industry leadership positions in 2019, including managing director, president, partner, principal and CEO roles in both data sets used in Castell Project’s study. This compared to 11 percent in 2018.

Looking at these roles individually, women were best represented in the C-suite, where the female to male ratio was 1 to 4.4, and least represented at the CEO level, where this ratio was 1 to 20.4. In 2018, these ratios were 1 in 5.3 and 1 in 20.8, respectively.

In terms of specific specialties, women in hotel companies remained most strongly represented in leadership roles in accounting, human resources, legal, marketing and revenue management. Operations and asset-management representation grew stronger at the VP level and should see improvement at the EVP/SVP level and above soon, according to the group. Information technology and investment-related fields remained strongly skewed toward men.

Representation at Conferences

In 2019, Castell Project found there were 4.2 male speakers on the investment conference podium for every woman. This compares to 5.6 to 1 in 2018, 5.4 to 1 in 2017 and 6.8 to 1 in 2016. More specifically, the ratios in 2019 were 2 to 1 for moderators, 4.4 to 1 for panelists and 5.8 to 1 for main stage presence.

Women made up 21 percent of investment conference attendees in 2019, nearly flat over the past four years. This percentage included college students who intern at the conferences and are majority female.

Of the 554 chiefs who attended investment conferences in 2019, 14 percent were women. Castell Project reported the ratio of female chiefs was improving specifically for accounting/finance, investment/development and operations roles.

Castell Project based this data on the rosters of four U.S. hotel investment conferences: The Americas Lodging and Investment Summit, the Hunter Hotel Conference, The Lodging Conference and the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference.

“It is heartening to have the statistical information that demonstrates companies are beginning to take notice that gender diversity is good for the bottom line,” Berg added. “However, the Castell Project is nowhere near its goal of seeing women in more than one of three C-suite positions in every major hospitality organization. Research continues to prove that companies with greater gender diversity are more profitable and often can approach new issues and opportunities with a fresher perspective made up of many differing voices. We look forward to the day when our mission is complete but will continue to track and work diligently until we achieve those goals.”

The "2020 Women in Hospitality Industry Leadership" report is the group's third such annual report.