WOMEN MADE PROGRESS in the U.S. hotel industry over the last year, but there is still a need for change at the highest levels, according to a report from the Castell Project. More female CEOs are needed, the report says, not just for their benefit but also for the benefit of the industry.
This is the second year for the Castell Project’s Women in Hospitality Leadership Report, which tracks gender parity at various upper levels throughout the industry. The data support’s the mission of the project, which was founded in 2016 by hotel industry expert and Highland Group founder Peggy Berg.
Berg started the project after traveling the country to various seminars and business events, only to find a lack of fellow women. The Castell Project offers a select group of female hospitality executives to undertake a program that improves their ability to advance their career, and the inaugural version of the leadership study underscored the need for it.
She said the inequities found in that first study are still healing.
“While the discourse is improving we have quite a way to go to achieve equitable opportunity for women in upper leadership,” Berg said. “For example, women are about half of director-level employees in hotel companies, but females make up only one in 22 CEOs and one in nine presidents. There clearly is a disconnect where highly competitive women are not being considered for promotion.”
According to the report, women fill 11 percent of hotel company leadership positions including managing director and president, and their low representation on upper management levels is due in part to a lack of promotion and also to the fact that women often do not yet lead hotel development projects or hotel ownership groups.
The current report also found that women are less likely to be promoted in fields with profit and loss responsibilities. This despite studies showing that more women are making financial decisions for their families and that women control 51 percent of U.S. personal wealth.
Also, while fewer women are promoted in the fields of investment and development, they are promoted in the sales field, an incongruous result in light of the fact that success in both fields depends on negotiation skills. The first step in solving inequalities like this is making industry leaders aware of them, Berg said.
“Although many hospitality industry executives believe that their companies have solved the challenges of gender diversity, Castell Project statistics indicate that most have not,” she said. “We challenge corporate leadership to build gender-diversity in their companies – it’s critical to a competitive bottom line.”
Berg cited a recent study by McKinsey & Co. that found more than 90 percent of companies say they prioritize gender and racial diversity because it leads to better business results, but only 42 percent of employees think this is the case for gender diversity. Another study of 22,000 firms found that moving from have no female leaders to 30 percent representation contributed to a 15 percent increase in the net revenue margin, a strong motive for companies to promote gender equality.
In terms of improvements, the current report found that one in seven presenters at hotel investment conferences is a woman, higher than 2016 when the figure was one in eight. However, it still does not offer enough opportunity for women executives to expand their careers.
“Until women attend and present at these conferences, their opportunity to compete effectively will be diminished as they are missing the chance to develop a resource network, connect with mentors and build their personal brand,” the report said.
In human resources, revenue management and sales and marketing, women have nearly achieved parity at the executive level, the report states. However, their representation still drops “dramatically” on the executive or senior vice president level, and they rarely are promoted to chief level role.
Along with the leadership report, the Castell Project is still accepting nominations for its 2019 Castell Leadership Program to be held this spring. Participants are nominated by a “champion” from their firm and must also submit an application/registration sheet. The applicants’ material is reviewed and they are interviewed for acceptance. They must be women in the hospitality industry, and they can come from any part of that industry.
“With each cohort, we have refined the Castell program to build the strengths women need to advance,” Berg said. “While women are 53 percent of the hotel industry workforce, we are drastically underrepresented in the c-suite and on the speaker’s dais. We are committed to changing the paradigm and are confident today’s dynamic rising business women will transform the industry. The Castell Program exists to provide the tools and resources to make it happen.”
Registration forms and more information are available on the Castell Project website.