Women’s History Month is an opportunity to reflect on the contributions, progress and challenges of women around the world.
It’s also time for the hospitality industry to recognize the professionalism of women in an industry that has long been dominated by men.
The good news is that progress has been made.
According to the American Hotel & Lodging Foundation’s Women in Hospitality 2020 report, women are increasingly holding leadership positions. Seven women were promoted to the position of CEO in 2018/2019, a 20% increase from the previous report. But there is still room for improvement: Overall, women hold only 12% of leadership positions in the hospitality industry, the report said.
According to Pilar Arizmendi, vice president of sales and marketing for Palladium Hotel Group, there is reason for optimism.
Women now have the opportunity to become leaders in a sector traditionally dominated by men, she said. Companies are increasing their efforts to find and retain talented women in leadership positions.
Pilar Arizmendi, Vice President Sales and Marketing, Palladium Hotel Group (Photo via Palladium Hotel Group)
Michelle Woodley, president of Preferred Hotel Group, agrees.
In the 21st century. There are certainly more opportunities in the 21st century than in the past, she said. Around the world, many women have become hotel owners, CEOs and other high-ranking executives. I began my career in the early 1990s, and in a portfolio of 32 international hotels, there were only two female general managers, and I was the only one in our management team.
Times have certainly changed since Woodley has been in the industry – and the company she chairs is a prime example. In the Preferred Hotel group. Inc. consists of more than 40% of its executive team of women, she said, referring to a long list of positions ranging from CEO and president to director of marketing and communications. It was a natural progression for us, the most qualified people were chosen to fill these positions.
Michelle Woodley, president of Preferred Hotels & Resorts (Photo via Preferred Hotels & Resorts)
The logic of diversity
According to Diane Vaughan, Hilton’s senior vice president of brand management for the Americas, workforce diversity is especially important in an industry like hospitality.
As a company where the people are for the people, our leaders must represent the consumers and communities we serve, she said. More women in leadership positions creates an important and diverse perspective that helps us create offerings in our hotels that appeal to our guests.
Dianna Vaughn, senior vice president of brand management for the Americas at Hilton (Photo via Hilton)
Vaughan, who has been with the company for more than 25 years, noted that Hilton has a special working group for women, and talked about the company’s approach to diversity.
In my role, I work closely with our owners and brand partners to ensure that Hilton hospitality is experienced across America, not only in existing hotels, but also in our growing portfolio, she said. I’m seeing more and more success with women entering the hotel industry, and I’m proud of the work Hilton is doing to create opportunities for women to participate.
Challenges and opportunities
Women are doing better than ever in the hospitality industry. But there are still problems. What does this mean for the future? I see the best and the hardest as opposite sides of the same coin, Vaughan said. The need for transparent conversations about gender equality is now more visible, and women in leadership positions are inspiring models of what can be achieved. I also feel that the women achieved what we wanted to achieve. Although we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go to achieve true equality.
Arizmendi acknowledged that while impressive progress has been made, much remains to be done. In a male-dominated sector, the biggest challenge is to level the playing field and demonstrate representation and equality in all areas, she said. At the same time, recent research on women in the workplace shows that the percentage of women in the C category has increased from 17% to 21% over the past five years. Working with a company that understands the unique qualities that a woman’s perspective brings to the brand.
Tips for success
Ms. Arizmendi has some wise words for all women who want to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. My advice is to always be who you really are, she said. Set a good example and encourage others to always do their best. Don’t be shy or afraid to ask if you can take on a specific role or project.
Mr. Vaughan agreed that we should stay in the middle. My advice to all is not to strive for progress, but to strive for fidelity to its principles and spirit, she said. Some of the principles I try to follow are passionate preparation, honest evaluation, and a willingness to learn and listen. This allows me to gather all the data and inspiration I need to be the best version of myself. I have found that this path has led to more unexpected progress than I could have ever imagined.
The bottom line, according to Woodley, is that the industry is a people business. Hospitality is receiving strangers and guests in an open, friendly and warm manner. If you don’t want to be the ultimate master in everything you do, think again, she says. This advice applies to everyone, not just women.
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