International Women’s Day 2019: Hospitality sector closing the gender gap


International Women’s Day 2019: Hospitality sector closing the gender gap

international womens day

First observed in 1909, International Women’s Day (8 March) continues to be an opportunity to celebrate all the achievements by women.

The theme for this year’s Women's Day is: “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”. Explaining the thinking behind the theme, UN Women says: “Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men and leave no one behind.”

So, how far away from gender equality are we?

The World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2018’ projects that the overall global gender gap will close in 108 years. That’s a long time! However, WiH2020, which looks specifically at gender diversity in the hospitality, travel and leisure sector, acknowledged that there was some encouraging progress being made in these industries.

For example, the percentage of women in board level positions at FTSE 100 hospitality, travel and leisure companies increased to 32%, up 3% from 29% in 2017.

Hospitality closing the pay gap

Promisingly, the hospitality sector – identified as ‘Accommodation and food services’ in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), published in March – fared better than most industries in addressing the pay gap. Whilst women were found to be paid on average 4.8% less than their male counterparts, only ‘Transport and storage’ was identified as being equal it in its attempts at closing the pay gap.

Women leading the charge

Whilst it’s important that we acknowledge there are still battles to be won on gender parity, International Women’s Day is ultimately about celebrating the efforts of women across the globe.

In hospitality, women like Kit Kemp, co-owner and Creative Director for Firmdale Hotels, and Karen Forrester, CEO, TGI Fridays are leading the charge.

In 2017, Firmdale Hotels won the Best Employer Award at the Cateys - it was also shortlisted in 2018 - having won praise for its “strong people-led culture”. Employees regularly engage in activities including Friday afternoon teas, staff appreciation weeks, staff film clubs, bowling and company quiz nights.

Forrester, meanwhile, is considered to be one of the most team-focused leaders in the sector. Beginning her career as a waitress, she worked her way up from waitress to divisional director before joining TGI Fridays UK in 2007 as managing director. Now CEO, she is credited with reinvigorating the brand with a people-led strategy that has turned a struggling business into one of casual dining’s real success stories.

There are so many more women we could mention who are ‘innovating for change’ such as Wahaca’s Thomasina Miers or outgoing Wagamama CEO Jane Holbrook and HGEM’s founding directors Sally Whelan and Lisa Chambers. But, let’s open the floor to your suggestions for the sector’s most inspirational women. Who inspires you?

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