Accor, one of the world's largest hotel groups, has announced the launch of a new initiative which aims to significantly increase the proportion of female representation within management positions at the company.
The group has set itself a target of 50 per cent female hotel managers, with an interim goal of 35 per cent female representation by 2015.
To help achieve this, it has launched a new women's network called Women at Accor Generation (WAAG), whose aim it will be to fight against stereotypes and prejudices and to promote gender equality across the company and in each country that it operates around the world.
Equal employment opportunities for men and women is an issue that affects all businesses sectors, and the hospitality industry is no exception.
In some respects, women in hospitality careers have an advantage over those in most other sectors, with figures from Women 1st, an initiative that aims to increase the representation of women in the hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism industries, showing that women make up 60 per cent of the hospitality workforce.
However, there is a concern that not enough women in the industry are progressing to senior roles. Indeed as of 2009, only six per cent of board director positions were held by women.
Furthermore, certain sections of the hospitality industry are still dominated by a certain gender. 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.
"There are more female graduates than male graduates, and yet women are under-represented in corporate managerial positions,” commented Sophie Stabile, Accor's global chief financial officer and chair of the new women's network.
"We know that mixed teams are more innovative and more efficient. Women at Accor Generation aims to give women confidence in their potential, to embolden them and to accompany them as they take this approach."
WAAG's principal activities will be centred around mentoring those in hotel jobs with Accor, the sharing of experiences and training, as well as on the creation and collaboration through networks, with the aim of promoting greater access by women to managerial positions.
The network also intends to act as a source of proposals in areas that concern Accor’s own business. For example, the first workgroup set up by the network will aim to come up with innovative products and services that meet the expectations of business women who are customers at Accor’s hotels.
According to Tracey Rogers, managing director of Unilever Food Solutions UK & Ireland and a mentor for Women 1st, offering training and support has been shown to be an effective means of helping women in the hospitality sector progress to senior roles.
Writing in an article for HR Magazine earlier this year, she also highlighted how investing in diversity can help businesses become more successful.
"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."
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