Flexible Work Can Help Improve Gender Equality in Hotels According to a New Study by EHL

What can help accelerate gender equality and elevate more women into leadership roles in hospitality? Flexible working. HoteliersGuild’s LeadingHôtelières chapter and EHL Hospitality Business School, have released a groundbreaking study examining the ways work and labor flexibility impact innovation, organizational resilience, and employee wellbeing.



Over 420 participants across 70 hotels contributed to this unique piece of research, which was compiled by Prof. Dr. Sowon Kim, EHL Hospitality Business School and Co-Chair of LeadingHôtelières together with Prof. Maribel Esparcia Perez and Dr. Renee Minnaar. Respondents per hotel included the General Manager, Head of HR and 3-5 employees – allowing the research to consider different perceptions based on role as well as gender, resulting in some fascinating findings. Five topline findings here:

  1. Hotels tend to have low to medium work flexibility

  2. Supportive cultures and supervisor behaviors increase work flexibility

  3. Supportive supervisor behaviors increase labor flexibility

  4. Work flexibility increases innovative capabilities, organizational resilience, and staff well being

  5. There is a perception discrepancy in labor flexibility between HR and GMs, and management is not necessarily on the same page

Interestingly, the study found there is no gender effect in the association between contributing factors, flexibility, and outcomes. Further stating, the trend of flexible working has gone "mainstream" and is not a "women's issue."

Interestingly, the study found there is no gender effect in the association between contributing factors, flexibility, and outcomes. Further stating, the trend of flexible working has gone "mainstream" and is not a "women's issue."

In addition to applying deep, academic rigor to the findings, LeadingHôtelières have made four key recommendations based on the study so that hotels can benefit in a practical way.

  1. Identify flexibility needs

  2. Co-create flexibility approaches, including how technology can help

  3. Train about flexibility measures and then empower department heads to make changes

  4. Design a culture that favors flexibility

As Dr. Kim concludes: “The pressure is on. Flexibility is here to stay, and organizations have the choice to embrace it or resist it. LeadingHôtelières encourages hotels to shift their mindset. Work flexibility will enable hotels to attract and retain talent, and enable women to pursue their careers and advance into leadership roles while having the choice to have a family too.”

As Dr. Kim concludes: “The pressure is on. Flexibility is here to stay, and organizations have the choice to embrace it or resist it. LeadingHôtelières encourages hotels to shift their mindset. Work flexibility will enable hotels to attract and retain talent, and enable women to pursue their careers and advance into leadership roles while having the choice to have a family too.”


It is encouraging that the formal academic research reinforces our recent investigations with new mothers and Human Resources Directors because knowing where the issues stand is the first step to enacting positive change. For an example of a hotel getting flexibility right, read our interview with Lisa Williams, Executive Housekeeper, The Grand.


Interestingly, one of the participants in the study was Red Carnation Hotels, which was founded by Beatrice Tollman nearly 40 years ago. Vicki Tollman, Executive Vice President, Red Carnation Hotels Collection noted, "my mother (Beatrice Tollman) made a commitment to ensure women in our company would have equal opportunities to grow and progress as well as receive equal pay and feel safe and secure. Today we are proud that over 51% of our teams are female with many holding senior roles within the company. As this is very close to our hearts, we were delighted to be a part of the study which highlights the need for and importance of an equal gender environment. “

Read the full report here.