A panel of female hotel executives looked at how the hospitality industry can make sure that women move up the corporate ladder.
NEW YORK—The hospitality industry can improve its record on gender inclusivity, according to female executives and diversity experts who spoke on a panel at the New York University School of Professional Studies.
The panel was led by Cary Broussard, an adjunct professor at NYU who previously held managerial positions at Wyndham Hotel Group, and included:
- Rachel Barnett, general counsel and board member at Travelzoo;
- Peggy Berg, director of the Castell Project, a nonprofit that aims to advance diversity in hospitality industry leadership;
- Leslie Grossman, chairwoman of Vistage Group, New York City, and adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Center for Excellence in Public Leadership; and
- Betty Spence, president, National Association of Female Executives.
Here are a dozen ideas put forward by the panelists for how companies can build gender diversity and how women can accelerate that process.
1. Think sponsorship as well as mentorship
Mentorship involves women helping each other along, Spence said.
“Sponsors will go out there and talk about you,” she said.
2. There’s a good business case to be made for more women at the top
Women book travel more frequently than men, so if brands want to know their customers and want a diverse base, it’s important to have women in leadership positions, sources said.
“It makes complete sense to have women on boards and in the higher levels of an executive team if you want to follow what your customers are doing,” Spence said.
Grossman added: “The numbers don’t lie. The more diverse a company, the better the stock price. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s good for the business.”
3. ‘Women are not out there’ is not a good argument
All companies have succession plans, and leaders have to make sure women are included in those plans so they are considered for top jobs, Spence said.
4. Change company structures
Make it simpler for companies to change by building networks that get women closer to the inflection points that allow them to rise to the top.
“To the extent we can help each other and build networks, it will get us to those inflection points,” Berg said, “and help women stick with their careers and move up.”
5. Improve childcare
The U.S. “sucks at childcare,” Broussard said, and that is one reason for the dearth of women in higher positions.
Barnett said there is a “second-child dilemma,” in which it simply becomes too expensive to pay for childcare and maintain a career.
“If you make it easier for women with two children to go back to work, you would see positive changes in the economy,” she said.
Grossman added “there’s no reason women can’t do at least some of their work at home.”
Berg said there are hundreds of thousands of women who work shifts around the clock and are then told that if they have children they won’t have time for a higher-level position.
6. Look outside the industry
“Follow the list of 100 best places to work for working mothers, and find out how they do it,” Spence said.
7. Seek others who have influence
Go to the women in the company who do have influence—and not just in human resources, where women have long had a foothold.
“Women are often so busy they might not be thinking about helping their peers, but if you put it in front of them they will do so,” Spence said.
8. The first woman in a position of influence is crucial
“As Ariana Huffington said about Uber, if you get one woman on the board, more will follow,” Barnett said. “And that’s what happened for us. We did not make a conscious decision to have women on the board (Travelzoo’s board is 80% women), but we looked at all candidates from both genders—not friends of friends or somebody who played golf with somebody.”
9. Use connections inside and outside the company
Spence said Travelzoo was unusual because it strayed from the typical method of appointing board members based on who they know.
“Women have to ask the CEO for a recommendation for their board membership,” she said.
Or, she added, women can get on boards outside of their companies, such as boards for cultural institutions, where they can network.
“We have to get integrated into places where they make things happen,” she said.
10. Don’t leave men out
“Some of our strongest allies are men with daughters,” Berg said. “They grew up in a generation that expected women to grow up and have careers.”
“We need men as allies. We need to find key male figures who get what we’re doing,” she said.
11. Concentrate on building relationships
Women need to spend less time being perfect at their jobs and more time building relationships. Grossman said women should build their own entourages.
“We are natural collaborators and good at having relationships, but we stifle it because of the focus on perfectionism,” she said. “Don’t work through lunch; go out for lunch and meet with people in and out of your company. Join organizations where you can build relationships.”
12. Learn how to network
There is science behind networking, Berg said.
“Women learn a type of body language that may be different from that of men,” she said. “It’s about how you present yourself on an unconscious level.”