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Women Leadership in Hospitality: Balancing the pandemic

Monday, March 8, 2021, 19:13 Hrs  [IST]

The hospitality industry is among the hardest hit by Covid-19. A massive amount of jobs in the industry have been lost during these troubling times. The pre-existing gender inequalities combined with the workforce mitigating impact of the pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to women employees. A recent McKinsey analysis estimates that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. On the other hand, this same pandemic has been instrumental in showcasing the competency of female leadership, through a research which revealed that female led countries had fewer Covid fatalities than comparable, male led countries. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Asmita Mukherjee spoke with celebrated female leaders of the hospitality industry to understand the future of gender equality in the industry after the pandemic.

‘Hard-work, spirit, energy and flexibility will take you to places in career’

Kavitha Dutt, Joint Managing Director, The KCP Limited (Owner of Mercure Hyderabad KCP)

According to you, how has the pandemic impacted gender equality in the hospitality industry?

Post the pandemic, multitasking was the need of the hour with a multi-fold approach. Women by nature have the instinct of multi-skilling, and thus the industry has found its solution by recruiting female team members who have shown a higher sense of adaptability and agility and have aligned themselves with the current goals of the hotel.                              

What initiatives or steps should the industry take to overcome the disproportionate representation of women at senior levels?

To change the next generation of leadership in key positions, the most important initiative to be taken is to consider women in succession planning. Analyse the succession plan for your team. Consider women succession to tackle the areas suffering from the lack of diversity. Training, support, and mentoring opportunities will surely increase the representation of women at senior levels. No biases or prejudices should be kept in mind while recruiting or promoting female talent. They should be given a fair and equal opportunity.

What advice would you share with women who are at the start of their hospitality careers and aspire to reach a senior position?

The opportunities for women in the hospitality industry have begun to expand exponentially. Women are breaking all the stereotypes, becoming successful, and occupying managerial roles. Women have broken through the “glass ceiling” and are now leading the way to aspire leadership positions in the hospitality industry. Hard-work, spirit, energy, and flexibility will take you to places in your career and help achieve those senior positions.


‘Women in hospitality have a substantial responsibility to adhere to the balancing act’

Khushnooma Kapadia, Senior Area Director of Marketing, South Asia, Marriott International

What do you think is the most significant barrier for women in the industry, today? How do you think this barrier can be overcome? 

Women in hospitality have a substantial responsibility to adhere to the balancing act. From having a good work life balance to a wholesome personal life equilibrium, a dual-centric identity today is bliss on its own accord. The upkeep comes with its own challenges; however, the flexibilities of having a perfect work-family boundary can be easily attained. With an ecosystem of support and an environment that encourages a focussed mind-set, barriers of any kind can be worked upon with subtlety.

What initiatives or steps should the industry take to overcome the disproportionate representation of women at senior levels?

Transformational leadership plays a strong role in our industry with a progressive vision and a centred purpose. Executive ventures to revolutionise management style is definitely an imminent forthcoming that will enhance and reassure representation. Inculcating the value of cooperation and collaborative work will globalise a perception for leadership that will overcome the disproportionate representation that still exists.

‘There is a stark difference in the percentage of women in managerial positions as compared to their counterparts’

Kanika Hasrat, General Manager, Taj City Centre Gurugram

What do you think is the most significant barrier for women in the industry, today? How do you think this barrier can be overcome? 

I believe that the biggest challenge that women are facing today in the hospitality industry is career progression. There is a stark difference in the percentage of women in managerial positions as compared to their counterparts. This challenge can only be abridged when organisations are sensitised towards the situation and make continuous efforts towards engaging and nurturing a diverse, inclusive and committed workforce.
The management must remain committed to reinforce the importance and relevance of women at the workplace through various initiatives such as clear communication from the senior leadership; creating safe policies, places, practices for women working in the organisation, and equal opportunities for them to compete in a level playing field.

According to you, how has the pandemic impacted gender equality in the hospitality industry?

The pandemic brought with itself a new set of challenges for each one of us, especially for the hospitality and tourism industry and seemingly even more for the women in the industry with greater risks of jobs at stake, salary deductions and relatively a higher societal and domestic pressure to stay home. But all one needs is gumption, determination and an undeterred spirit to accomplish and always keep walking!

What do you find to be the most challenging part of your job?

I have never thought of myself as a “woman” on the job, rather as a General Manager or a Front Office Manager who is a woman. On the job, gender truly does not matter and what counts is delivering results. I believe every person has an opportunity to contribute – man or woman, and what counts is showing values to your guests and the team by standing by them, delivering service with passion, and being dependable.

Managing this whilst trying to spend quality time with and bringing up the family does have its challenges unless a woman has a supportive family which shoulders equal responsibility, along with a strong team that delivers the promise of quality and service irrespective of the physical presence of the leader. To achieve both, the foundation needs to be built on Trust and Teamwork.

A belief in oneself, mentoring and guidance by leaders as you go along can really make a difference. We need to come together as an industry to keep a look-out for each other and help women engage meaningfully in hospitality verticals to build financial independence and the confidence to grow.
 

‘Institutional mindsets is one of the major reasons why we see fewer women in leadership teams’

Aditi Pal, Director of Sales & Marketing, Novotel Ahmedabad

What do you think is the most significant barrier for women in the industry, today? 

Institutional mindsets are one of the major reasons why we see fewer women in leadership teams. The societal assumptions and stereotypes that persist is another reason why women are not recognised as great leaders, but there is a visible mindset shift everywhere.

According to you, how has the pandemic impacted gender equality in the hospitality industry?

It is feared that the pandemic could reverse the progress made towards gender equality in the recent years. While women constitute a lesser percentage of global unemployment, they represented a higher percentage of jobs lost from the start of the pandemic.

Due to the pandemic and the changes in the working pattern, women have been forced to shift their focus entirely towards responsibilities at home resulting in fewer responsibilities at work.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of your job?

The long and winding road to recovery, having said that resilience & persistence shall see us through.

What advice would you share with women who are at the start of their hospitality careers and aspire to reach a senior position?

The advice I would give to women who are at the start of their careers is: don't underestimate yourself. Don't be afraid of speaking up and try to constantly put yourself forward for opportunities. Don’t be afraid to stand out.

‘Intent to make the change can be the biggest initiatives by the industry’ 

Jessica Sahay, Director of Sales, Fairfield By Marriott Kolkata

What initiatives or steps should the industry take to overcome the disproportionate representation of women at senior levels?

The biggest initiative that the industry can take to overcome this disproportion of gender at senior levels is to simply create intent to make that change. If the intent is part of the inherent culture of the organisation, the opportunities for women will get created and gender equality at leadership levels shall be a reality. 

What do you find to be the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of being a female Director of Sales in a city like Kolkata is the sheer lack of women in leadership positions across other hotels. My contemporaries in most comparable hotels are mostly men and that is quite disturbing to see at my level, because with lesser women representation at senior levels, the organisational chart is lopsided, thereby making gender inequality come glaringly to the forefront.



 
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