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Attention Doesn't Mean Progress for Women According to Castell Project

The Castell Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the careers of women professionals in the hospitality industry, just released the fourth Women in Hospitality Industry Leadership report, which details women’s progress in leadership. Unsurprisingly, given the impact of the pandemic on travel, 2020 did not allow for much advancement for women in hospitality, despite getting more attention in the media.

Peggy Berg, chair, Castell Project, Inc.
Peggy Berg, chair, Castell Project, Inc.

“While the rhetoric surrounding women and diversity in leadership escalated in 2020, the needle barely moved, exacerbated by COVID-related layoffs and furloughs,” said Peggy Berg, chair, Castell Project, Inc. “The effects of the pandemic on women and minorities were particularly noticeable."

Due to the massive furloughs and layoffs of last year, there is a chance for a reset according to Peggy, “Returning to the status quo should not be the goal. The industry lost 479,000 employees (35 percent) over the past year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We believe this offers companies a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build stronger organizations by benefiting from the full-pool of diverse talent."

Many hospitality companies have diversity initiatives in place, which is also a positive for performance and profitability according to the May 2020 McKinsey & Company Diversity Wins report, "there is a substantial performance differential – 48 percent – between the most and least gender-diverse companies."

Looking forward, this means hotel companies need to embrace flexible schedules, the possibility of job sharing and remote working, when possible. "As an industry that feels workforce pressure, we need to do better for women--and men--who want career advancement in addition to families. The companies that perform best in the new post-pandemic market will be companies with diverse leadership,” Peggy added.

The Castell Project 2020 research showed little movement, the odds of a woman reaching the executive leadership level (CEO, partner/principal, president, C-suite) were one woman to 5.9 men at the end of 2019. A year later, at the end of 2020, odds were 5.7 men per woman. The challenge for the industry is to fully develop a diverse talent pool so the best candidate for the company can emerge.

This research is supported by the AHLA Foundation (AHLAF). To download a copy of the report, please visit

Bottom line: The Castell Project research showed 2020 offered little advancement for women in hotel company leadership. The pandemic has created an opportunity to reset as the workforce is rehired, hotel companies should look for ways to attract and retain a more diverse talent pool, which research shows will ultimately make them more profitable.


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