The hospitality industry has changed significantly over the past 60 years, particularly regarding women and gender equality. Along with the growth and globalization of the sector, opportunities for women to fill an active and rewarding role within the hospitality workplace have greatly increased around the world.
While women are still fighting for equality at work in different areas, they have earned their place in hotels, catering, and tourism for quite some time now. In the overall economy, 46.1% of employees are women, but in the hospitality sector this figure has grown to 53.7%.
Nowadays, women are employed in a variety of roles within this industry, ranging from cleaning personnel and kitchen staff to front-line customer service workers and senior management employees. But this is far from all — they also control hundreds of millions of dollars of international real estate and their hotels are recognized as some of the world’s most innovative.
However, it hasn’t always been like this. The mere idea of having a female hotel worker — let alone owner — in the 19th and early 20th centuries was a strange notion. Despite this, women started to gradually take up this space. While some women had already found success in the hospitality industry in the early 1900’s, it was only after World War I that real opportunities started to emerge. When hotels were suddenly deprived of their male staff who had gone to war, women started to take on the industry and command the sector. Unfortunately, even though World War I proved that women were ready to take on a more active role in the hospitality business, it still took another war for society to change its attitude toward women working outside the confines of their home and to achieve the percentage of women that the industry boasts today.
But as the world is changing fast, the sector needs to be prepared for the demands of tomorrow. It is important and necessary to recruit and promote talented women for technical and managerial positions in the hospitality industry to meet future requirements. As more women are traveling for business and leisure, and therefore are comprising a larger percentage of a hotel’s client base, it is essential to strive for gender equality in the recruitment of employees.
The good news is that the hospitality industry is considered a good sector regarding the efforts towards advancements for women. This is because of its size, quick growth rate, and its diverse, dynamic, and flexible nature. The same applies to combating gender stereotypes. Because tourism is such a diverse area, the range of employment types and opportunities offered in formal and informal workplaces is also diverse, differing from cultural and political constructions, especially regarding the role of women within the economy.
But even as the world is striving for parity between male and female workers, and the hospitality industry proved to be a successful example of that, it has still taken years for this equality to become accepted generally. Providing a fairer salary policy and promoting more women to management positions are two important ways to achieve equality. And this should always be accompanied by one fundamental objective: changing attitudes.