It is unlikely that there will ever come a time when gender in the workplace would not matter. Regardless of culture, historical context, or social circumstance, men and women view the world (and often each other) through gender-specific lenses.
While these elements of diversity have the potential to enrich workplace interactions and improve organizational outcomes, it also brings with it issues of power, justice, and identity. Hospitality organizations, in particular, have been the focus of numerous studies as women in service – whether consumers, employees, or leaders – confront gender-related dilemmas that are particularly complex and acute.
The hospitality industry used to be traditionally male dominated for a long time, partly because of the culture and nature of the industry, where job opportunities are more versatile and require senior executives to be flexible with relocation options.
Breaking through the glass ceiling certainly isn’t unique to the hospitality industry. Compared to 20 or 30 years ago, it is now much easier for women to obtain leadership roles and career opportunities are more plentiful now
On a macro level, the ratio of male to female employees is still heavily skewed towards men, from apprentices to head chefs. On a micro level, there are events being held all over the world – talks, dinners, charity events – that are all male. Organizers either don’t consider including women or they will include one or two as a token of diversity.
If we attend any hospitality industry conference or event, it is notable how the majority of the attendees (many of whom hold top tier executive titles) are male.
But the scenario is changing at a rapid pace.
Breaking through the glass ceiling certainly isn’t unique to the hospitality industry and the good news is that there has been significant progress. Compared to 20 or 30 years ago, it is now much easier for women to obtain leadership roles and career opportunities are more plentiful now; and, technological advances have also helped.
In Asia, where the hospitality industry is expanding rapidly, this is particularly the case. New properties are opening up faster than general managers can be found and increasingly it is women who are securing some of the good jobs. If enrollment in hospitality management programs is an indicator of women’s potential to impact the industry’s future, the decades ahead indeed look bright.
A better understanding of women and hospitality, both as employees and consumers, will benefit men and women alike as they work together in the decades ahead to create high-performing and socially responsible service organizations.
Women continue to earn less than men in equivalent jobs in the hospitality and tourism business, but this is due to the type of jobs and the setting in which the jobs take place rather than gender discrimination. However, women are consistently earning less than men at an operational level, although this varies across different roles. The greatest disparity in earnings is between men and women working as cooks.
Women have long worked in positions of de facto leadership in the hospitality industry, such as supervising or managing a family-owned business, or assuming additional responsibilities in their boss’s absence. However, it was not until 1980s that large numbers of women first began to be formally hired for leadership roles.
Since that time, the opportunities for women in the hospitality industry have begun to expand exponentially. Today, we can find successful women filling managerial roles at every level, ranging from floor supervisors to executive board members. Although they are still significantly outnumbered by their male counterparts, these women have broken through the once-impenetrable “glass ceiling” and are now leading the way for a new generation of females who aspire to leadership positions in the hospitality industry.
In Bangladesh, training courses, regulatory adjustments, and other “interventions” can bring about positive outcomes but, ultimately, a full commitment by all sectors to collaborate in the long term, and to advocate joint investment and improvements on a number of levels, will be what truly stand as the winning formula for a sustainable and equitable change to the current paradigm in hospitality for women.
There are immense opportunities in Bangladeshi hospitality and tourism industry, considering the massive scope and the human resources. To eradicate the present obstacles to empower women and build a stronger future for them in hospitality industry here, the government and every related entity and stakeholder should work in sync and act accordingly.
Increased employment prospects and providing the supportive workplace environment should be our first and foremost priority. Finally, everyone’s optimistic mentality would eventually pave the way for building the future for women, in not only in hospitality but in every profession.
Constantinos S Gavriel is general manager, Le Meridien, Dhaka.