Comment: Mind the gender gap

Women in hospitality are still being overlooked for leadership roles, but gender diversity is actually good for the bottom line

Claudia de Brito
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Claudia de Brito

The Middle East is a very cosmopolitan part of the world. Still, creating a diverse and inclusive workforce in most industries requires a concerted effort. In 2019, women are still being surpassed by their male colleagues when it comes to leadership positions. What a lot decision makers don’t realise is that they are doing their companies a disservice.

A recent study by McKinsey & Co. that found more than 90% of companies say they prioritise gender and racial diversity because it leads to better business results. Similarly, a study of 22,000 firms found that moving from having no female leaders to 30% representation contributed to a 15% increase in net revenue.

While the Middle East has lagged behind mature markets such as Europe, things are starting to change. Speaking to Hotelier Middle East Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach GM Amery Burleigh said: “I am very much a champion of gender diversity of women in executive positions in the hospitality sector. I know there are stereotypes in terms of women being in higher hospitality roles in the Middle East, but I think there has been more openness now then there ever has been.”

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Great progress is also being made in Saudi. The kingdom’s director general of the National Centre for Tourism Human Resources Development, Nasser Al-Nashmi, said it has trained more than 9,000 women through its various programmes. Female participation rate in Saudi’s tourism sector is currently 22%.

Speaking to Hotelier Middle East about diversity, Hilton vice president, operations KSA & Levant Kamel Ajami said: “We are working to attract more females to careers in the hospitality industry, and to help our own female team members reach leadership positions through various management development programmes.”

Underlining the work that Radisson Hotel Group has done to promote inclusion in the workplace, area senior vice president Middle East and Africa Tim Cordon added: “I’m proud to continue the wonderful efforts for women in leadership in Saudi Arabia and we have now moved to 150 female employees in Saudi Arabia from six in 2014.”

We’re also starting to see more female employees in positions that are traditionally occupied by men. Waldorf Astoria DIFC director of human resources Yasmine Farouk employed an inclusive hiring strategy when assembling her team saying: “We have hired a diverse range of team members, with a broad set of backgrounds and expertise. There are 50 different nationalities and high female to male ratio. We are also pleased to have a number of female team members carrying out roles in traditionally male-dominated departments such engineering, stewarding and the kitchen.”

The next step is to nurture these individuals to become leaders. Our 2018 Power List received some criticism due to the fact that no women were featured. This year, two women were included but it has to be said that two out of 50 isn't great. The work continues.

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