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Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Slowly but surely, women are making progress within the hospitality sector

By Vaseline May27,2024

The May/June issue of HOTELS Magazine featured a special report focused on women in the hospitality industry. The idea of ​​a piece dedicated to highlighting women’s achievements is itself a cynical exercise: it’s 2024 and we’re still writing stories and posting questions and answers that illustrate the inequality that still exists, especially in the ranks of business. This is why we still do it: if we were to stop, it would mean that the gap has not only closed, but has been closed. And that’s not the case: according to gender pay gap statistics recently published by Forbes, women earn on average 16% less than men. For every dollar men earned, women earned 84 cents.

Dollars and cents aside, there is also the idea that women are not in the highest leadership positions. It’s true: many women in the hospitality industry are CFOs, COOs, CTOs, CMOs, to name a few. However, among the large accommodation companies there is not just one CEO. Not yet.

Over the next week, we’ll be rolling out our Women in Hospitality section, where we asked a cross-section of women in the hospitality industry questions that relate not only to the plight of women in the industry, but also to their specialty within it. Because one day there will no longer be a need for a women in hospitality panel at a conference discussing women in hospitality. Instead, it will be an all-women panel talking exclusively about hotel development, hotel investments, hotel branding, hotel marketing, hotel technology, hotel financing – all sorts of things, just not why women aren’t in positions in those areas. Because those days will be over.

Rachel Humphrey has championed women in the hospitality industry before it was even a thing. She graciously agreed to write the introduction for our Women in Hospitality column, which you can read below. As always she is on point. People ask her: When will articles written specifically about women no longer be needed because we’ll have reached a point of gender balance? It’s a fair question, she says, and one she hopes will one day arise. If it happens, she says, “I hope we continue to celebrate each other across the industry regardless of gender.”


Every March, the hospitality industry celebrates its female leaders as part of Women’s History Month. Stories and photos of special women can be seen on LinkedIn and other channels. For March alone, you could conclude that women have achieved the goal of gender equality in the hospitality industry. While it is important to recognize the overall progress in the hospitality industry, March does not reflect the reality in the industry today.

Yet there is much to celebrate. Women are making strides in all segments of the industry, including many places where they have traditionally been underrepresented. Many companies are evaluating the composition of their leadership teams and boards of directors and setting benchmarks for achieving greater diversity.

Those who are truly committed create programs that prove their dedication. Conference organizers also consciously strive for greater diversity in panels and keynotes. Importantly, many of these speaking opportunities now spotlight women as the subject matter experts that they are.

Sponsors are also more aware of their role at conferences. Men proudly serve as allies and champions, with many women noting that their greatest mentors and advocates have been men.

Organizations committed to elevating women in the hospitality industry are offering networking events, conferences, mentorship programs, scholarships, podcast opportunities, training materials, board volunteer opportunities and other resources to help those investing in themselves. We are proud to have 31 of these organizations working together as part of the Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance to maximize their efforts to hopefully move the needle further and faster.

The National Women’s History Month theme for 2024 celebrates “Women Advocating for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.” That theme aligns with the efforts of formal organizations and is anecdotally true: many women cannot recall an extended period of support and advocacy for each other.

There is a lot of momentum and a very public story that is driving awareness and generating results. But more needs to be done. Women don’t just want to talk about a place at the table; they want and deserve a seat at the table. There’s no doubt that diversity in ideas and leadership drives business results. There have been more women in mid-level positions for some time now, but barriers to executive leadership roles and the C-suite remain.

Some of these obstacles are social; some are ingrained in current leaders/decision makers; others our own internal dialogue. On boards, at conferences, in organizations, in trade publications – it takes a collective industry to get there.

Companies and recruiters need to think differently when hiring, and then further identify and develop top talent. Conferences must attract more female participants and the media must recruit more women as subject matter experts. It is also up to women to seek career opportunities, learn and advocate: Am I doing all I can to promote gender equality in the hospitality industry?

The hospitality industry is incredible and a career in it impacts people’s lives every day. Of course, there must be female representation at all levels to reflect the diverse communities served.

People often ask: when will the time come when articles will no longer need to be written specifically about women, because there will be a point of gender balance? It’s a fair question. I hope it will happen someday. It’s just not today. And when it happens, I hope we continue to celebrate each other across the industry, regardless of gender.


Story contributed by Rachel Humphrey, founder of Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance, and interview host, DEI Advisors.

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