Hospitality industry has changed a lot over the last half a century; not considering hotels before that as there were a few and the number of women working in the industry were even fewer. The biggest challenge was to get women work force; not many allowed their daughters to work in the industry. I have heard from some of my senior colleagues how they had to reach out to elite communities creating awareness about the hotel jobs for women and also recruiting some of them to work in the Front Office and Housekeeping departments. Fast forward to the 90s and the 2000s hospitality education as well the industry was able to reach the masses with the growth of travel and tourism in the country. It became one of the largest employment- generators having a multiplier effect on our economy. This led to the increased number of women joining the Hospitality and Tourism industry.
Challenges that career women face
The biggest concern for women is not being able to continue work post their marriage or starting a family. Some are able to balance their careers with responsibilities on the home front whereas others find it difficult due to lack of support. Some choose to quit altogether to fulfill more important responsibilities such as child care. Once the children are grown up they’d want to get back to work but wouldn’t know where to begin; having lost a few years off their careers. There aren’t many opportunities after a sabbatical. Many women restart their professional journeys from where they left or even lower and settle for lower paychecks as well. This is across industries not restricted to hospitality alone.
When employed; even after putting in full day’s work in their offices; women have another set of responsibilities back home. It requires support from family as well as her workplace to create that work- life balance which in turn contributes to better productivity at work. If not; it can lead to unwarranted stress that can force even a star performer to quit her job. The industry is aware of this and measures are being taken to make women-friendly work places as well as HR policies. They could be; providing flexibility at work to manage home and family or handle a demanding situation. Part time employment options, Child care leave, crèche facility, work from home and job sharing are some best practices implemented in many organizations. They can thus have robust women friendly policies which truly will empower the working women. Given the right opportunities and mentoring; women employees can do wonders by contributing to and creating great value for their organizations as well as building successful careers for themselves.
We strongly urge the industry leaders and HR heads to incorporate these policies in their organisations on war front; the world is changing, work place dynamics are changing and there is a need for us to adapt and evolve.
Attracting and retaining the right talent
According to the India Skills Report 2018; Travel and Hospitality along with Banking and Financial sector can do better on gender diversity, considering their work environment is conducive. If these sectors realign their hiring targets as well as overall gender diversity strategy and work on narrowing pay gaps, improve work-life balance and other equality factors they can achieve their gender diversity targets.
However data indicates that women do not stay in the industry because they feel excluded from the informal communication networks and often feel overlooked when decisions regarding progression are made, things are changing and we wish to see gender equity in practice across organizations.
Ms. Kanchana Arun, Asst. Prof, Hotel and Catering Management, Vels University in her case study, A study on Challenges of Women in Hospitality and Tourism Industry says, “Although women have come a long way in the workplace, men continue to hold most leadership roles. However, the unique culture and history that define the hospitality industry have made the prospect of change particularly challenging. Although this pattern continues to hold true in the hospitality industry, the last several decades have been a period of remarkable change and growth for women in the field. The contribution of women in the business world has increased in recent years, and in the hospitality industry their representation in top management positions has made women’s status more prominent. Various social, cultural and economic factors influence the roles women occupy both in society and the workplace.”
Today, there is good representation of women workforce in the hospitality industry but mostly at the lower levels of the hierarchy with very few women in leadership roles. It needs to create role models and leaders through focus on career path, succession planning and mentorship. Some organisations are allowing women to start afresh with reemployment opportunities.
In my own organization The Park Hotels, we have the ‘Welcome Back’ program not just for women employees but for all. Our chairperson Ms. Priya Paul and VP HR Ms. Sujata Guin are driving our organizations commitment to women- friendly policies across the different verticals.
Such measures from organisations encourage them to take on more women, especially after they have had a gap in their careers.
Indian Women in Hospitality as a forum; has a great role to play as we have women professionals from across organizations, geographical locations and cultures. We share information, we educate and create awareness. We’ll soon offer Mentorship Program to our members with a vision to help them plan their careers, make career shift or restart after a sabbatical.