One could argue that tourism is a distinctively ‘female’ industry; about two-thirds of the workforce is female. However, more women are employed in low-skilled jobs or line positions – such as receptionist, sales agent, waitress or housekeeping – than men and have significantly fewer career opportunities. It has also been proved that while around 60% of all mid-management roles in the hospitality industry are covered by women, they only account for 16% of those who get to general manager level and above.

A leading position in the hospitality industry has always been considered a 24/7 job, and therefore less likely to appeal to female leaders. A survey carried out by an international hotel company uncovered a surprising result: it suggested that the main reason for this was not the reconciliation of work and family, but rather a lack of female self-confidence and a fear of failing to measure up to their male counterparts.

Developing women leaders

With these issues in mind, international hotel companies have launched special programmes designed to develop the abilities and strengthen the self-esteem of women leaders by focusing on individual employees’ career planning.

Personal strengths as well as differences are promoted, and any barriers to female progression are addressed. Support is also given for flexible working conditions. Home office, part-time models and job-sharing opportunities for senior positions should help further progress. It is no longer about how many hours one spends at the hotel as a measurement of how good one is at the job. Instead, it is about how successful the outcome of that work proves to be.

Women can often find the right balance between family and developing successful careers because they tend to be well organised, able to multitask and have strong communication skills. It is also the case that companies with a minimum of 30% females in leading positions achieve better financial results than others, because of the diversity of ideas delivered.

Focus on strengths

Radisson Blu Style Hotel Vienna, where I have served as general manager since 2008, runs a successful ‘Women in Leadership’ programme that offers flexible working models to its male and female teams. Rather than enforcing achievement quotas, we focus on strengths, reduce weaknesses and try to eliminate barriers. While every position is filled by the best-qualified people, we believe that many women in our company have the as-yet-unrealised potential to become top executives.

If the necessary social and personal environment is lacking – particularly where women with children are concerned – the balancing act between work and family can otherwise become impossible.

To help counter this, Women in Leadership offers more flexible working hours home-office, part-time employment models and job-sharing for senior positions are ways to enable jobs to be successfully pursued. At the Radisson Blu Style Hotel Vienna, for example, housekeeping is run by women on part-time contracts as part of a job-sharing arrangement. More flexible working conditions also require a high degree of discipline among employees. These individuals are very loyal to the company and highly motivated, and this is reflected in the guest surveys and the annual climate analysis carried out among all employees.

Women and men bring their own ideas and strategies for how to run company; finding a harmonious balance is a win-win situation for all. Now it’s up to companies to change their structures and give all possible support to ensure that the gap between top female and male leaders is evened out.