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Women dominate the travel and hospitality industries as sellers, consumers, and workers. It is also estimated that women make 70% of all travel decisions. While women have founded and run many property management companies, the proportion of women in business often decreases as one rises through the ranks. However, this phenomenon is not limited to the hospitality industry and can be found in the majority of industries. The World Economic Forum confirms this, revealing that women account for only 10% of CEOs and 15% of senior management. 

Within the hospitality industry, things are particularly precarious with women holding only 12% of leadership positions in the industry making the odds of a woman becoming CEO being one in every 20 men. Organizations themselves promote this gender segregation in this industry by managing recruitment processes with stereotypical stances of women's appropriate work roles.

These biases are frequently systemic and deeply ingrained, and they exist with the underlying stereotype of the ideal worker in the hospitality industry still being male, stifling women's career advancement. Women's professional status reflects this bias, with lower pay, low-status jobs at entry levels, stagnation at middle management levels, and obstacles as they work their way up to boardrooms and senior executive roles.

There is a clear case for increasing gender diversity in business, as well as a moral imperative, so why aren't more women climbing the ladder in the hospitality industry?

Early in our careers, a large portion of our industry's workforce is evenly distributed across both line and staff roles. By the time they reach the director level, women begin a disproportionate shift into staff roles. While some attribute the disproportionate shift of women in staff roles, it can be attributed to limited networking opportunities. We all know that networking is essential for leadership success. Even so, many women face difficulties using and accessing networks. Many talented women still consider networking to be a sleazy, inauthentic interaction. Apart from this "moral judgment" about networking, new research indicates that "gendered modesty" also prevents women from networking.

These obstacles also stem from culturally ingrained gender dynamics to the struggles of prioritizing family over the advancement of their careers. The sociocultural expectation from women that they will sacrifice their careers for their partners also dampens their motivation to take more responsibility that comes with higher positions. Research also demonstrates that women are more likely to pull themselves out of their career progressions due to the unbalanced burden and sociocultural expectations. 

However, things are changing in recent times in the hospitality industry. With leaders like Alison Gilbert from "The Lake Distillery", Angela Brav from "IHG", Hemma Varma of "Marriott" and Jean Winters from "Jean’s Kitchen", the future of hospitality is bright. But when it comes to the majority of other organizations, we need a lot of work to be put in.

Organizations must develop programs that actively promote gender equality to facilitate change. Gender equity, as well as other diversity strategies, must be planned for and built into the fabric of a company's mission, vision, and values. Policies and procedures can make a significant contribution to gender equality in the workplace, as evidenced by the increase in remote job opportunities, which have demonstrated increased innovation, productivity, employee well-being, and job satisfaction, as well as unlimited vacation programs that promote work-life balance. The future of our industry is dependent on positive changes in our workforce, from interns to CEOs. More women must be prepared to take on leadership roles and gain access to the C-suite. It will only help our industry in the future.

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