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Females in the Workplace: The Bicentennial Battle Against Gender Bias

Warren Buffet, the billionaire Oracle of Omaha, once said that the United States would be a greater country if we employed women like we do men. Of course, this was during the 1940s and 50s when women were expected to stay home. Times have changed, but unfortunately, we are still not treating women as equals to men in the hospitality & restaurant industry.

In the early 20th century, the Census Bureau categorized that only 20% of women were recognized as “gainful workers.” By December 2020, women held roughly 50% of American jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic. But while more women are entering the workforce, the subject of equality still remains a serious issue.

It’s Time For Change

According to Women in Hospitality, women made up 55.5% of the workforce in hospitality in 2019. But many of those positions make up the rank and file. The Castell Project reveals that women hold only 23% of board seats, and 22% of C-suite titles in the hospitality & restaurant industry. In addition, only one out of 31 CEO level positions are held by women.

 

Graph showing how fewer women are employed in the hospitality industry

Like most things that require change in business, the bottom-line matters. Some hospitality leaders won’t make changes to improve equality for women. They don’t see it as the right thing to do. However, if they see how it impacts their bottom line, they might move in the right direction.

Gender Diversity

A study by Repetti (2020) found that gender diversity in the hospitality industry is positively related to EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). A similar study uncovered the significance of the degree of gender diversity among TMT (top management team) members in hotel companies.

Graph showing the industries with the most female managers

This study found that female representation in TMT below 10% is detrimental for company’s performance. The relationship becomes positive in the 10-20% band. A hotel reaps the most financial benefit from gender diversity when female representation is at the 20% level. Improving equality improves performance.

Companies with gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability. These companies also had a 27% likelihood of outperforming fourth-quartile peers on longer-term value creation.

What restaurant workers make in the U.S.

The disparity in wages for men and women in the hospitality industry is even more considerable; men are paid more than women for the same positions. But it is not all doom and gloom for women in our industry. Changes are occurring and many hospitality leaders would like to see more women in leadership roles.

The question is how? How do we make the changes we know need to happen? First, forced quotas have such a negative tone. Forcing a business to hire a particular gender can lead to rushed actions. Hospitality leaders want to hire the best candidate for the job. The issue isn’t if a woman is the best candidate, but if the hiring manager will hire the woman.

Graphis showing that women hold less managerial positions than men

What Can Be Done?

Business leaders in the hospitality industry can make a significant difference in how women are treated in the workplace. Change can happen if companies begin to take action now. And it doesn’t require time-consuming or expensive implementations. In a study conducted by Deloitte, organizations can make a real difference on gender equality at work by:

  • Creating and maintaining an inclusive everyday culture-This is where non inclusive behaviors are not tolerated. It is where women feel able to raise concerns without fear of career penalty.
  • Enabling a work/life balance that goes beyond policies-Putting procedures in place that normalizes flexible work.
  • Demonstrating visible leadership commitment-This includes setting targets for gender representation at the senior level.
  • Offering better learning development opportunities-Implementing interesting projects and stretch assignments that work for women.
  • Providing support and resources-Including short-term sabbaticals and mental health resources that enable life outside work.

Getting Creative

This is just a sample of changes to consider. Get creative and come up with your own ideas for overcoming inequality for women. Sometimes it is the simple small steps that can make a world of difference for your workforce. It can also increase your company’s bottom line.

Both academic and industry research has focused on understanding how increasing gender diversity relates to organizations’ outcomes. But considering the benefits of diversity in the workplace is just one aspect of the issue. Every business wants to have the best employees they can get. Most hospitality leaders agree that regardless of gender, the most qualified person should be hired.

Tides are turning

But tradition, biases, and embedded prejudices still prevent some hiring managers from hiring a woman over a man.  Thankfully the tide is turning if ever so slowly. A quick glance at Fortune’s 75 Best Large Workplaces for Women reveals Hilton Worldwide, Inc. at the top of the list. Ranked number 10 is Hyatt Hotels. Many other hospitality companies are striving to make a positive impact on equality.

Employment laws are helpful with quotas, monitoring and legal enforcement, but that is only the beginning. Having the gumption to do the right thing and hire based on experience and credentials works just as well. As Buffet states, “We‘ve seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. If you visualize what 100% can do, you’ll join me as an unbridled optimist about Americas future.

 

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