Attend any hospitality industry conference or event and it is notable how the majority of the attendees—many of whom hold top tier executive titles—are male rather than female. At the property level too, if during your stay, you request to speak to the general manager the chances are you will be greeted by a man rather than a woman. (A female hotel director in Europe contends that an old boy network still exists in hospitality.)
"The hospitality industry has been traditionally male dominated partly because of the culture and nature of the industry, where job opportunities are more versatile and require senior executives to be flexible with relocation options," said Rainy Chan, general manager of the Peninsula Hong Kong. "For female hoteliers, they often face the dilemma of having to make a choice between family and career, and most of the time, the former always wins the power struggle."
It’s a fact that senior hotelier roles require a big commitment. Managing a hotel is not a 9-5 job and can be difficult to fit a personal life around the demands of the property and its staff—general managers especially are often referred to as being ‘married to the job’. This is hard for both sexes but particularly for women.
"One of the biggest challenges is balancing our personal and professional commitments," said Judy Hou, CEO, Les Roches Jin Jiang International Hotel Management College. "Female executives have to work hard to find that delicate balance between time spent with family, child care and work-related issues. This requires planning and sacrifices as hospitality is an extremely intense, time and energy consuming, fast-paced industry.
Signs of change
Breaking through the glass ceiling certainly isn’t unique to the hospitality industry and the good news is that there has been significant progress. Compared to twenty or thirty years ago, it is now much easier for women to obtain leadership roles and career opportunities are more plentiful. Technological advances have also helped.
In Asia, where the hospitality industry is expanding rapidly, this is particularly the case. New properties are opening up faster than general managers can be found and increasingly it is women that are securing some of the plum jobs.
"It is becoming easier for women to get into more senior management roles as the hospitality industry has become keenly aware of women’s abilities to lead and there are examples for the younger female population which makes up more than 50% of the workforce (particularly in the Asia Pacific)," says Hou. "Additionally, as the hospitality sector is growing at a rapid pace, the industry has to consider both male and female candidates equally for positions that traditionally have been dominated by men."
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