In this third and last installment about what hoteliers can do to help women advance their hotel industry careers, it is also important to recognize that women in hospitality, especially room attendants, might face anxiety and insecurity while considering career opportunities. To read Part 1, click here, and for Part 2 click here.
It is critical that hoteliers make these opportunities worth the effort for women, in general, and room attendants, in particular. This will require clear communications about the investment to be made by operators and the investment in time and effort required by female employees to be considered for advancement.
Contributed by Angella Reid, COO, Heritage Consulting by B+R, Las Vegas
Second, it will be critical to provide a clear understanding of the potential return on this investment for both parties. Hotel operators will need to consider fair and transparent pay policies, flexible work policies (to support women’s caregiver responsibilities), educational opportunities, hiring additional staff and adjusting often farfetched expectations on productivity, among other things. Women employees will need to understand the pay structures at advanced levels (especially the differences between positions that are exempt and non-exempt from overtime pay), productivity and overtime expectations, as well as educational and training requirements.
Now let us look at a list of considerations for hoteliers and female employees that can improve advancement opportunities for women in hospitality.
Hotel operator considerations:
- Adjusting the norms: recalibrate and change course as this is the perfect opportunity to make required radical moves that the workforce seeks.
- Create intra-organizational mobility for the women who aspire to learn and grow; many hotel brands now have multiple hotels in a city. Make it possible for housekeepers and other low-skilled workers to have the same opportunities for movement as occurs at mid and senior management levels.
- Create more job-sharing roles.
- Establish formal mentoring and sponsorship programs.
- In my experience, when we have identified high performing and high potential room attendants and empowered them to self-inspect their rooms, decrease supervision and provide higher hourly compensation, we determined that these room attendants were and are capable of greater advancement with mentorship and education.
- Remake the workplace – free up information flow; educate across the board.
- Create an environment in which women see themselves reflected in all roles in a hotel and not just the traditional female roles such as housekeeping; make it a focus to recruit and hire a woman in every single role.
- Strive to achieve a 50/50 split of male/female representation in your teams, right up to the executive team.
- Offer practical support such as childcare. Yes, this can prove expensive. But it will help if leadership thinks and speaks of it as an investment in people which will return in multiples. Is it better economics to have guests in a poorly served environment that leads to rebates and a public relations nightmare? Or, chalking out childcare, a stipend, a joint unit for hotels in the same geographic area? It should not be a career killer for a woman to ask for extended leave because she wants to look after her children.
- Provide fair and transparent salary/wage information during an interview; abolish the cloak and dagger approach.
- Embed mental health resources in the workplace.
- Measure the value of employees based on results and performance and not on the number of hours of face time.
- Mandate minimum expectations of training hours for all employees. Make unconscious bias training a part of the required annual training hours for each employee.
- Build diversity and inclusion into the workplace culture remembering it is more than gender and race.
- Leadership must clearly define the diversity statement and its culture of inclusion and recognition. And then bring it to life (and I do not mean just cultural days where we prepare food, etc.)
- Involve the employees in the work that affects them.
- Establish non-traditional training programs for room attendants and make the training a part of their shift hours so they don’t need to spend additional at work to learn and grow while their families wait for the care they inevitably must provide.
What women can do?
- Invest in a mentor or multiple mentors. Do not wait for one to be assigned. Seek out women and men you admire and ask them for support. Be prepared for discomforting discussions as there will and should be tough conversations that help you become more resilient.
- Learn from watching others, adapting the traits and skills that add value to your tool kit. Do not be afraid to steal blatantly in this case.
- Speak up about your interests.
- Take risks. Say ‘yes’ to the uncomfortable, even knowing you might fail. These uncomfortable journeys stretch us and teach us invaluable lessons. Do not settle for a comfortable space as that will hinder your growth.
- And when you fail, as you will on occasion, the most important thing is not to be crushed by that failure. Share these experiences with mentors you trust and adapt the changes needed to keep moving forward. My self-talk was always “girl don’t wallow in self-pity, shake it off and get moving.”
- Use the power of networking. Networking, mentoring and coaching opportunities can help women build confidence and develop their careers. I benefited a great deal from this and continue to do so.
- Take advantage of mentoring programs and be open to male mentors as well.
Think differently about room attendants as one way to begin to close this gap of available women for leadership roles. Take action to select, hire, train and develop high potential room attendants to supervisory and managerial positions across hotel disciplines.
As all industries grapple with selecting and promoting more women to senior positions, the hotel industry, a beneficiary of increased women travelers, already has a reservoir of female employees to tap into, and who can advance with some help from their leaders.
Although I focus on room attendants, the emphasis should be placed on developing women at whichever role they occupy.
I view this investment as a win-win with the potential for huge benefits to employee and guest engagement, a direct positive impact on the hotel’s bottom line. And in making the commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, these actions are not only consequential, but they are the right thing to do.