Young women in hospitality

Assembly Rooms

by Shona Clelland, cultural venues development manager, Assembly Rooms

The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the most successful sectors supported by a female-centric workforce.

The industry was strides ahead of the national average when gender pay gap data was published earlier this year, with the hourly pay for women an average of just 1% lower than men. This figure reflects what we already know – that many women thrive within this sector. But, despite positive headline figures, many organisations have acknowledged they have work to do, particularly regarding the representation of women in more senior roles.

Traditionally young people were not taught about the breadth of opportunities within the hospitality industry, and ‘working your way up’ wasn’t considered as a viable career option. But an industry can’t have new leaders if it doesn’t have new applicants. Much work has been done over the last 20 years to position hospitality as an attractive career choice in school through to higher education, and now travel and tourism is the 21st century’s fastest growing industry.

The industry differs from others in that, while there are far more women than men now entering the field, they are failing to progress to senior positions. Hospitality and travel certainly has no problem attracting women who make up 60% to 70% of female grads from hospitality management programmes but we see issues starting to arise in trying to convince women to stay.

We need to encourage those women who are coming into the hospitality industry with an eye on the business side – whether it be in hotels, restaurants or events. Recognising hospitality as a meritocratic sector, offering rapid career progression, financial reward and incredibly enjoyable work is instrumental to encouraging this change in the industry. 

As well as being a people-oriented industry, hospitality is creative. You are creating a product — be that food, drink, or an experience — and there's always scope to dream up new ways of making it more enjoyable for your customers.

It is well-known that a diverse workforce is a more productive, idea-generating workforce that fosters success. Every company should be striving to achieve that in 2018, creating valuable business opportunities and driving innovation.

Gender equality in the hospitality industry is something I feel passionately about supporting, which is why I’m involved in the Women in Tourism (WIT) movement. WIT was established in June 2015 by a small group of destination leaders who are all passionate about the Scottish tourism industry and recognise both the challenges and opportunities for women within the sector. I want to see us break down stereotypes and diminish unconscious bias, to ultimately take ownership of our own career development.

The founding principles of WIT are to inspire, motivate, encourage and support women across the sector while advocating for greater gender balance across leadership roles within industry.

While created in Scotland, the ambition is to deliver continued development and establish recognition as a global example of best practise, with the creation of international chapters. This will result in a global framework for mentoring, inspiring and developing future female tourism leaders.

Research shows there is worldwide scope for job opportunities for women within the industry and according to figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council, by 2019 there will be 275 million jobs in the hospitality sector which will be predominantly populated by women.

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