The problem of women and visibility in the hotel industry
“There are plenty of women employed at high levels in the hospitality industry, but we don’t see that many of them in visible roles, speaking on stage at major conferences, representing the industry internationally.” This was one of the driving points of a recent Hotel News Now editorial by Editor-in Chief Stephanie Ricca.
To see what women in hospitality think of this, we spoke with other high-profile female leaders in the industry for their take on Ricca’s assertion. For their part, they say, she makes a good point…
“If you had asked me earlier in my career, I would have said, there are not nearly enough women, but now it doesn’t even cross my mind,” says Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales for Marriott International. With the company for 34 years, in her current role she is responsible for managing the organization’s global sales team and oversees more than 500 employees.
“Our company has so many women leaders, including our chief financial officer (CFO), our chief commercial officer and the president for our European continent,” says Routh.
Outside of her employer, “Women have a very powerful presence in this industry. When you go to global business travel associations, there are very powerful women on stage,” says Routh.
However, admits the executive, “I would love to see more women in a bunch of CEO roles,” she says. Also, says Routh, women are more or less visible in the hotel industry depending upon on the discipline.
“With hospitality development and owners, it’s more heavily skewed towards men. In my world of sales and marketing and customer base, it’s more heavily skewed towards women,” she says.
Rising up and getting heard takes intention, skill, strategy and the ability to use resources and contacts within reach.
“I think it’s incredibly important to take advantage of women’s leadership initiatives offered by your own employer, or within the field. There are so many opportunities for women to gather, learn and share best practices,” says Routh, who is involved with roughly six professional organizations, either as a board member or general member.
“There are so many opportunities to sit on boards, panels and to be a part of projects that make you invaluable. It takes raising your hand, reaching out and volunteering,” says Routh.
Networking with camaraderie is something men have long been outstanding at, and should serve as an example, says Routh.
“Through informal networks they push each other forward, advocate for each other and help one another move up in the industry,” says Routh. “We should be helping each other move forward.”
Katherine Lugar echoes such advice. As President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), she’s been at the helm of the organization, which boasts over 24,000 members, for three and a half years.
“There is always room for more, strong female voices in the industry, as in all industries across the United States,” Lugar says. But, many women still face challenges to their careers when it comes to balancing their personal and professional lives, and these obstacles can prevent them from taking on more visible roles that they might otherwise assume.
“In the business of hospitality, there are many after-hour commitments, and women in the industry have said that one factor can be a stumbling block to taking on bigger roles with bigger responsibilities, but it is a work in progress. And many more managers are trying to take that issue into account and build in more flexibility. Our Women in Lodging committee, an exclusively female forum, is determined to get at the heart of the problem by funding research to assess the barriers for women, in the hopes of identifying implementable solutions,” says Lugar.
And, it’s not just women who seek to gain from such unifying, supportive actions, says Routh. “The hospitality industry benefits when there are diverse points of view and different perspectives brought to the table. It makes the industry more powerful.”
“Every industry benefits from diversity,” adds Lugar. “Our industry must reflect that diversity to be successful. Indeed, women have tremendous spending power in America today, and it’s growing, as women account for 92% of vacation purchases and control over $20 trillion in world-wide spending.”
5 Ways Women Can Raise Their Visibility in the Hotel Industry
Stay authentic. “I tell younger women on my team, or men, we brought you in to this team because we wanted to hear your voice,” says Routh. “We can’t listen to the same five voices all of the time. We need your perspective to make the best business decisions. When you have something to add, speak up, but don’t speak more than you listen.”
Maintain balance. “I believe your first obligation is to your own company and family,” says Routh. Until those two things are manageable, “You shouldn’t be volunteering for a lot of other things. I’m lucky, I have amazing leaders who report to me, which enables me to commit to do more. Don’t over commit. Get involved in something you have a passion around. You need to love it to do it exceedingly well. More is not better. Be strategic about where you spend your personal time.”
Seek out mentors. “Attach yourself to the best and brightest so you can learn,” says Routh. “Every successful woman says she had a great leader or mentor along the way to help them understand how to navigate politics of a large organization or corporation.”
Realize your inherent value. “Women are perfectly positioned for corporate America today. Projects and teams are part of the nature of our industry. Women are outstanding team players, good listeners, empathetic and willing to do what it takes to get the job done,” says Routh.
Think strategically, with confidence. “With more vehicles available for women to connect with other women leaders and find the right path and support to move up, I encourage any woman who aspires to climb the ladder of success to prioritize, take risks, embrace challenges, maintain confidence and stay focused,” says Lugar.
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- Women leaders in hospitality: Career advice from Kathleen Reidenbach, Chief Commercial Officer, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants