Gender equality in the hospitality industry

Despite significant progress in recent years, the UK is still home to a great deal of inequality when it comes to the difference in pay and career opportunities afforded to men and women.

Indeed, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK's gender pay gap, although narrowing, remains at 9.1 per cent, with men earning an average of £28,400 a year, compared to £22,900.

However, the good news for women looking for hospitality work is that there are plenty of job opportunities for females in the sector.

In fact, according to Women 1st, an initiative that aims to increase the representation of women in the hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism industries, women make up 60 per cent of the hospitality workforce.

But despite this, there is undoubtedly still a long way to go before the hospitality industry can achieve true gender equality.

Women 1st's research also revealed that certain sectors of the hospitality industry are still dominated by men. For example, while there are considerably more female travel agents (81 per cent) than men, as well as more conference and exhibition managers (73 per cent), waiting staff (72 per cent) and travel and tour guides (69 per cent), men make up 100 per cent of hotel porters, 61 per cent of chefs and 60 per cent of pub managers.

But the main problem facing the industry is that there are far fewer females in higher positions in the hospitality sector than there are males and as of 2009, only six per cent of board director positions are held by women.

Fortunately though, steps are being taken to address this issue thanks to Women 1st and other groups aiming to help women in hospitality jobs rise up the career ladder.

Women 1st, which was created by the sector skills council for the UK's hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism industry People 1st, offers a number of schemes to help women in the hospitality industry, with the ultimate aim of increasing female representation at board level.

For example, it runs numerous training programmes to help women develop better leadership skills, as well as a mentoring scheme which gives women access to personal advice and guidance from senior female employees.

"Evidence from Women 1st has shown that, with the right training, mentoring and support, women flourish," commented Tracey Rogers, managing director of Unilever Food Solutions UK & Ireland and a mentor for Women 1st, in an article for HR Magazine this month.

"Over the past three years, Women 1st has helped over 800 women in the UK's hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism sectors make progress in their careers."

Ultimately though, it is hospitality businesses themselves who have the most to gain from creating a more diverse workforce and offering greater opportunities to female staff.

"There are three well-documented commercial reasons why diversity is good for business," explained Ms Rogers.

"First, the competition for talent is fiercer than ever – so in order to secure the best talent you need to be prepared to consider all the available candidates, not just the male half of the population.

"Second, research has repeatedly demonstrated that businesses perform better as the diversity of their leadership team grows.

"And third, according to the Centre for Talent Innovation, diversity stimulates creativity and innovation while homogenous groups of decision-makers will often crush such originality."

According to Ms Rogers, over the past five years, the proportion of women in senior positions has increased, while more than 50 per cent of Unilever's graduate recruits are women.

"In principle, the pipeline is being filled, but our task is to ensure many more reach the top levels," she said.

Berkeley Scott provides specialist advice and support to help you with hospitality careers