Predictions for Women in the Hotel Industry for 2023
Although many articles have been written predicting travel trends for the year (and we’ve covered them in the Round-Up!), here we take a look at 2023 through our own hertelier lens. Shining a light on the progress we’re seeing post-pandemic, we are excited about the opportunities 2023 may hold for women in hospitality. Spoiler: the future looks bright!
Prediction 1: More women moving into the C-suite at hotel companies and taking on marquee GM roles
At the height of the pandemic, 22 million jobs were lost in the US, 39% of which were in hospitality. Not surprising that most of these job losses were women who bore the brunt of caretaker roles when daycare and schools closed during lockdowns. Since then, however, men and women have regained the jobs lost. “Fears of a ‘she-cession’ turned out largely to be unfounded,” Richard V. Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution told CNN of the idea that women would be impacted more by pandemic-related job losses. “Women are returning to the labor market, and we’ve actually seen quite a big increase in the share of women in management roles and senior management roles.”
Fast forward to this month, for the first time in the Fortune 500 list’s 68-year history, more than 10% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. The Jan. 1, 2023 start dates of five new Fortune 500 chief executives brought the number of female CEOs up to 53, pushing the tally over the long-awaited threshold. Though none of these are hotel companies (only Marriott even makes the Fortune 500), it sets a precedent. “Women as CEOs isn’t an oddity anymore,” Jane Stevenson, global leader for the CEO succession practice at Korn Ferry tells Fortune. “It’s not the majority, but it’s not an oddity. So 10% makes it more and more normal—and less risky, subconsciously, to put a woman in the top spot.”
Looking at hotel industry executive moves, so much to celebrate in recent appointments: Amber Asher, CEO of Standard International; Katerina Giannouka, Jumeirah CEO; Maud Bailly, CEO at Accor of MGallery, Sofitel and Emblems; Jillian Katcher, President, Twin Bridges Hospitality; Danielle Schneider, CEO, Pathfinder Hospitality, and just this week Julie Arrowsmith, was named interim CEO for G6 Hospitality. According to the 2022 report from the Castell Project, there was one woman for every 10 men in hotel company leadership (CEO, president, founder, etc.) up from one in 11 in 2019, and we expect to see the needle move more aggressively in 2023.
We’re also seeing women leading iconic luxury hotels and resorts around the globe: from Marlene Poynder at The Carlyle in New York and Abby Murtagh at The Broadmoor in Colorado, to Joanne Taylor-Stagg running The Athenaeum in London and Katrin Rüfenacht running the design-led 7132 in Switzerland, to Maria Bou Eid as GM of The House Hotel in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, and Sabrina Dey as Hotel Manager of the JW Marriott Bengaluru resort in India. We predict more of this in 2023!
Prediction 2: More female leaders will have a trickle-down effect on inclusivity across all sectors of the industry
Women just seem attuned to underserved groups, whether it’s working mothers or LGBTQ+ travelers. With the continued tight labor market, more women between the ages of 30-44 joining the workforce and at a higher percentage than before the pandemic, not to mention Millenials and Gen Zs increased focus on work-life-balance, hotel companies will need to offer more flexibility to attract workers. Women get this. We’ve seen Omni Hotels take a lead in finding ways to provide more flexible schedules to accommodate working parents and carers under the leadership of Joy Rothchild, Chief Human Resources Officer.
At IHG, Global Talent Manager – Operations Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Orla Allen, shared the company’s “Journey to Tomorrow” commitment to increasing gender representation in hotel leadership by 2030. She is working on a variety of ways IHG plans to achieve this. One is RISE, an empowering mentoring and networking program for female hotel leaders. “Middle management is where it gets tricky so ensuring we broaden the audience across management tiers is essential as well as exploring various flexible working solutions such as job-sharing to keep women on the path to leadership.” Similarly, Marriott has put more emphasis on their Women’s Ambassador Network, and for the first time, smaller associations and brands like Relais & Chateaux have publicly set goals for gender equality by 2030.
In terms of inclusivity, we’ve seen women take the lead. For example, on topics such as re-framing gendered language to be more welcoming to LGBTQ+ guests, Anne Golden has trained her staff at London’s Pan Pacific Hotel. These decisions are not just better for society, they also make smart business sense. Did you know, LGBTQ+ represents a growing travel market of $218 billion annually?
Prediction 3: Female leaders will continue to innovate in service and luxury
We predict female-led service innovation to continue at a strong pace, as evidenced by all the promotions of women into top roles as mentioned above. Don’t just take it from us, Skift celebrated hoteliers Jeanette Mix of Ett Hem in Stockholm and Nicole Boekhoorn and Fleur Huijskens of Sterrekopje, a working farm in the foothills of the Franschhoek mountains outside of Cape Town, as “Innovators for 2022” for thoughtfully integrating hotel guests into the hotel experience–from foraging for ingredients with hotel chefs to essentially removing the back-of-house and creating a stylish self-service model at Ett Hem. Other examples we love: Caption and other fresh branding concepts Crystal Vinisse Thomas is bringing to Hyatt and the completely new lifestyle brand pioneered by Naomi Heaton who is combining elements of hotels, apartments, and private clubs in The Other House.
Prediction 4: Women will lead the industry into sustainability
Despite the fact that there were hardly any women present at COP27, we are seeing women take leadership roles across the hotel sector in sustainable efforts. In terms of the big brands, we don’t think it is a coincidence that the sustainability leads at Accor (Brune Poirson), Hilton (Jean Garris Hand), IHG (Catherine Dolton), and Marriott (Denise Naguib) are all female. From Raquel Noboa creating training programs to making a case for how luxury and sustainability can coincide profitably as Sue Williams has done at the five-star Whatley Manor here in the UK, women are innovating at all levels in ESG. Women are also creating sustainable solutions in the booking process; look no further than Jessica Blotter of Kind Traveler, who has essentially reinvented the OTA with sustainability built-in.
Prediction 5: Women will use technology to create solutions across the sector
From tipping to scheduling to shopping, women are using tech to solve problems! Think of Elle Rustique, who created the QR-code-based tipping app, TipBrightly, or Lisa Williams, Executive Housekeeper at The Grand, who successfully used the IndeedFlex app to allow her housekeepers to work any shifts they want, which not only solved her labor problem but also increased efficiency. Look at Janine Williams from Impulsify, which just won a 2023 HotelTechAward, for the grab-and-go tech shopping platform she created for hotels, and Suzanne Mahoney, who created LiBi (Love It, Buy It) a QR-code-based shopping app. On the sales front, Elaine Macy and Penny Wing have used technology to allow smaller hotels access beautiful digital assets to promote hotels to travel advisors with their startup, Reiimagine. Equally brilliant is Sue Graves, who has transitioned from GM to becoming a tech advisor for hotels, gathering intel to help the broader industry capitalize on the efficiencies offered by technology.
Melissa Jurkoic, Chief Experience Officer at cloud-based tech company Thynk and a long-time advocate of women in hotel tech, predicts women will continue to rise the ranks in technology, "In our current post-pandemic culture, there is an even higher demand for human connection and empathy. Diverse teams, specifically with women in leadership, lead to greater empathy as we have a natural tendency to listen, understand and reflect before committing to a solution. When you know what your users want and need, the more they are engaged with your product."
Prediction 6: More female hotel owners
Thanks to innovators like Tracy Prigmore creating the She Has a Deal pitch competition and Fund, major hotel brands have recognized that women have been overlooked as potential hotel owners. The launch of programs including the Red Roof Women’s Forum spearheaded by Marina MacDonald, Wyndham’s “Women Own the Room” and the new HerOwnership effort by AAHOA, will certainly open more doors for women in the coming years. It is heartening to see Gilda Perez-Alvarado leading JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group, the biggest hotel brokerage in the world, and women like Davonne Reaves and Kendra Plummer setting examples by sharing their hotel ownership stories and knowledge.
Prediction 7: Women helping each other
2022 saw the launch of the non-profit Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance, spearheaded by Rachel Humphrey. The alliance started with 18 founding members (hertelier was one!) and has already grown to 27 groups around the globe. With these various organizations sharing information and coordinating more meetups, women are connecting with each other and gaining strength. hertelier is proud to be a big part of this movement and a central hub for women in hospitality to find inspiration, information, and community.
Final thoughts: Optimistic predictions for sure, and while we purposefully glossed over headwinds thanks to the uncertain economy and geopolitical instability, what women in hospitality achieved in 2022 is impressive! Even more so in the context of the unconscious bias we face in the workplace, the continued gender pay gap, and age discrimination, which is more pronounced for women.
Yet, there is still much work to be done to make the UN Sustainable Development Goal of gender parity by 2030 a reality. In Harvard Business Review this week, Ludmila N. Praslova writes, “fixing” women is not the solution — fixing environments to create systemic inclusion and allow women to succeed authentically is.” Our hope–and we are manifesting here–is that hotel companies continue to come up with new solutions!
Cheers to 2023!