Diversity breeds development and drives innovation. This is a notion that has long been drummed into the copy of every “Women in Business”-type campaign in recent years. However, the pandemic has unearthed some very stark truths.
Despite all the work done, recent research has found that women in the workplace remain the most vulnerable and hardest hit in a crisis. In fact, In August and September of 2020, 865,000 women left the workforce, compared with 216,000 men due to the pandemic.
Now, let’s talk women in technology.
An Accenture report titled “Cracking the Gender Code” revealed that the proportion of women to men in tech roles has declined over the past 35 years, and half of young women who go into tech drop out by the age of 35. In the same study, only 21% of women said they believed the technology industry was a place they could thrive; woefully, that number falls dramatically to just 8% for women of colour.
Similarly, the hospitality sector notoriously has no trouble attracting women at entry level. The problem here, is the lack of progression to senior roles, with many women leaving at middle management level.
Without women progressing beyond middle management – whether that be in customer facing or technology roles in hospitality – there will be no change. Without those women making it to the top to inspire and mentor the young women at the beginnings of their careers, systemic change cannot begin.
It is then the job of the C-suite and board members now to fix the obvious stumbling block: hospitality’s lack of flexibility in working conditions and support for women balancing careers with family.
There’s an unspoken “ignorance is bliss” attitude in the hospitality sector towards this blocker. We all know there is an issue, but as PWC found in their recent Women in Hospitality report, “there is a general lack of appetite to engage in the debate.”
Frankly, this is not good enough.
Proactivity in inclusivity
Now, because there are very few female role models, CEOs and chairmen in the sector (with some notable exceptions like EasyJet and Merlin Entertainment), solving this issue goes beyond women helping women. This is about leaders – men and women alike.
As we move into recovery, now is the time for leaders to step back, acknowledge and explore their biases wherever they may exist, and then understand that their business is potentially at risk without diversity.
If in other sectors, female founded and co-founded start-ups perform better over time, generating 10% more in cumulative revenue over a five-year period (according to BCG), the potential impact our lack of action is having on the hospitality industry – when it needs more help than ever – is detrimental.
By implementing diversity from the top down, not only will we see better profits and bottoms lines across the board, but also a bigger talent pool, more innovation, trust of our employee, customers and stakeholders, and a massive driver of success.
Once we understand this as a whole sector – no matter how uncomfortable it makes us an industry feel – we can then begin putting mechanisms in place to foster education, awareness, and behaviours that support inclusion, and kickstart a cultural shift that won’t be weathered by any future storms.
Think back to air travel in the 80s when rows 1-13 on an aircraft were reserved for smokers. My hope is that the thought of not hiring a woman in key technology and leadership roles because of perceived risk, or the notion that “she doesn’t have what it takes”, will sound as crazy as lighting a cigarette on an airplane in 2021.