With just seven per cent of the top positions in the leisure industry held by women, the industry still has a long way to go to achieve gender equality, according to a recent analysis of publicly traded companies. This statistic sharply contrasts the current 50-50 gender balance in the workforce.
The study, carried out by Aptamind Partners with assistance from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), is based on public information from the biggest hotel chains, gaming establishments, and entertainment businesses worldwide.
The results demonstrate that as you move up the career ladder, the gender disparity in the leisure business gets worse. The report “The Numbers Behind Women in Leadership: Leisure” found that, from a 50/50 overall gender balance across the workforce, women make up 42 per cent of mid-level management and 33 per cent of senior management. In addition, just one in five executives at the C-suite level is female, making the disparity even more pronounced.
“While some progress has been made in the last two years, there is still a huge amount of work to be done,” Aradhana Khowala, CEO of Aptamind Partners, said in a statement. “We need a wholesale shift in the way we think and talk about gender and leadership.”
To redress the disparity and have more women in leadership positions, the sector must go beyond well-intentioned initiatives and box-ticking activities, Khowala continued.
The absence of meaningful and reliable data in the public domain is one of the biggest obstacles to enhancing gender diversity.
“We cannot wait any longer for the arc of history to bend the right way on its own. We need to benchmark where we are at so we can push forward together with concerted, collective action,” said Khowala.
The survey shows that the casino and entertainment sector has advanced slightly more than the hotel sector, with three female CEOs and four female chairs.
Unfortunately, the slight improvement in the percentage of female leaders and executives in the hotel sector has failed to translate into more women in leadership and senior roles.
The report states that Alison Brittain, the sole female CEO group representative when the research was undertaken, has since resigned. Brittain was the CEO of Whitbread PLC, a British hotel company that owns and operates the Premier Inn hotel brand. In January 2023, she left her job. Dominic Paul, the Domino’s Pizza Group CEO in the United Kingdom and Ireland, took her place.
Although the numbers seem grim, things can still change. The research cites the rising proportion of women on the boards of leisure companies, from 17 per cent in 2007 to 28 per cent in 2022, as proof of this fact.
Women’s presence on casino and entertainment company boards has improved in recent years, rising from a pitiful six per cent in 2019 to 12 per cent in 2021.
“This issue goes beyond equity and fairness,” said Julia Simpson, president and CEO of WTTC. “Companies need to hold themselves accountable to guarantee progress is made over time.”
The research also suggests several actions the leisure industry might take to ensure advancement. These include:
- Improved disclosure
- Regular reporting
- Independent regulation and verification
- Holding the leadership responsible for the advancement of gender diversity
Simpson says, “Putting women on the center stage of travel and tourism will ensure a better future for the sector.”
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