Comment: Equality, not one-upmanship for women in hospitality

Comment: Equality, not one-upmanship for women in hospitality
Published: 14 May 2017 - 2:48 a.m.
By: Devina Divecha

Not many people realise this, but my editorial team comprises four women (including myself) and one man. It wasn’t something I had planned, but it’s just panned out that way. Even my conference producer whom I work closely with, for the five fantastic forums we host every year, is a woman.

So when the team puts together things like the Power 50, or speakers’ lists for our events, it’s frustrating when we end up with more men compared to women. Certainly, I have not worked on a single Hotelier Middle East Power 50 with a woman on the list. That, however, is reflective of the fact that we struggle to think of a hospitality operator whose highest ranking regional representative for the Middle East is a woman.

It was with this frustration in mind that we put together a group of female business leaders and passionate hoteliers to talk about the opportunities and challenges that face them in the hospitality industry [pages 44-50]. The discussion was a lively one, full of hard truths, and even fun facts and observations I cannot publish!

I also learned a lot. In particular, Sheryl Sandberg’s quote (thank you Stephanie AbouJaoude for sharing that)  resonated with me: “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” It’s really not about men or women. It’s about having the right person for the right job, and it’s so wonderful to see the hospitality industry stepping up its game to ensure there are equal opportunities and equal representation in their properties and corporate offices.

Just before going to print, we found out that Time Hotels will soon launch a property where 80% of the team comprises women. In an official statement, the operator’s CEO Mohamed Awadalla said: “We see almost equal numbers of male and female graduates leaving hospitality school, but fewer women enter in the hotel workforce, which shows the industry must do more to attract and support female professionals and their aspirations for career development.” Bravo, and good luck!

Hilton comes to mind too; I learned that the upcoming DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai Business Bay has a 52:48 male-female split, which is really a business decision to ensure diversity, which, in turn, will lead to a better trading environment.

Palazzo Versace’s Sandra Tikal brought up a study that was recently published about women in leadership, which I looked up. A study, conducted by Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen, the head of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour at the BI Norwegian Business School, showed that women are better suited to leadership roles, after assessing the personality and characteristics of nearly 3,000 managers. In the study, women scored higher than men in four of five categories, which included: initiative and clear communication; openness and ability to innovate; sociability and supportiveness; and methodical management and goal-setting. Men were shown to be better at handling work-related stress with higher levels of emotional stability.

What does this say about a business? Frankly, all it says is that there’s a lot to be gained from accurately assessing potential job candidates regardless of gender in order to find the person who will benefit your business the most — whether that’s a man or a woman.

Now, even more so after listening to, and being inspired by, the women in leadership roles who grace the cover this month, I’m convinced that having a balance of genders is the best decision for a business. Are you? And what are you going to do about it?

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