New coalition to fight for gender equality in hospitality

by | 02 Feb 2021 | General News

Xenia zu Hohenlohe, chairwoman of LeadingHôtelières and founding partner of Considerate Group

Hospitality leaders across the globe have come together to form LeadingHôtelières, a coalition working to achieve better representation for women at the highest levels.

Formed by some of the world’s top hoteliers and hospitality academics, this pioneering initiative is calling for gender equality across senior positions, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5.

Uniting industry leaders in a common goal

The LeadingHôtelières coalition has been founded by the CEO and president of HoteliersGuild, Frank M Pfaller, and co-founded by the CEO of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Lindsey Ueberroth. Considerate Group’s Xenia zu Hohenlohe is leading the coalition as chairwoman in its inaugural year, and the associate professor of management at EHL, Dr Sowon Kim, is joining as co-chair.

“When we looked at our HG membership roster, we realised that we had far too few women in leadership positions,” said Pfaller. “Reaching out initially to Lindsey, Xenia and Sowon, we were thrilled to realise their enthusiasm to join our cause to making a real change.”

Additional support is being provided by industry leaders like the owner and CEO of Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Valentina de Santis; sustainability architect Yasmine Mahmoudieh; the director of Red Carnation Hotels, Vicki Tollman; the director of spa at Four Seasons Hong Kong, Dr Tania Bardhan; and the CEO of hospitality consultancy WE(i) Think, Celine Vadam. Each will play an important role in establishing greater gender balance at a systemic level. The group’s communication is to be coordinated by the managing director of Mason Rose, Maria Pajares.

An advisory board is now taking shape, with founder of ESPA International, Sue Harmsworth; associate professor at Institut Paul Bocuse, Dr Henri Kuokkanen; and professor at IUBH University of Applied Sciences, Dr Willy Legrand onboard to offer support.

Working towards gender balance

Together, these figures are setting plans in motion to encourage gender equality across the industry by providing guidance, mentorship and training through its network of industry contacts.

The focus for the coming year is on addressing flexible working structures. “I’m happy to see more women CEOs in hospitality, but we are still a far cry from where I hope we can be in terms of representation,” said Ueberroth. “The biggest challenges for women looking to achieve top leadership roles were the need to travel, relocate and dedicate long hours.

“In the past, once having children and raising a family came into the equation, many women were forced to make a choice, and those challenges were hard to overcome. Given the innovations in technology and a more open attitude towards flexible working hours and home offices, many of these hurdles seem alleviated.”

“We are currently working on a framework to test whether the outcome of our goal, to improve gender equality among directorial and operational roles in the hospitality industry through updated flexible working schemes, actually works for our hotelier partners,” added Dr Sowon Kim, who is heading up research for the initiative. “We aim to create new and relevant knowledge and share these findings in a meaningful, productive way.”

Xenia zu Hohenlohe concluded: “Gender equality is a key part of the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and any business serious about futureproofing itself will need to address this issue.

“We have an incredible collection of women with highly professional profiles paired with great brainpower in this group, all driven by the motivation to ensure the female hotelier of the future will be able to finally have the same opportunities for career development as their male peers. I am delighted to be co-chairing this chapter with the wonderful Sowon Kim and we hope to be able to make a real difference with this work.”

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