By Pradeep Chamaria
In 2022, on occasion of International Women’s Day, the world discussed equality between genders and celebrating the day with the Theme – Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” with the hashtag #BreakTheBias. When we look at the issue in Hospitality and tourism industry, the fastest growing industries in India that contributes 6.8% of the country’s total GDP and creates 39 million jobs, we find that the industry still faces several workforce issues that need to be addressed as they exist today.
The noticeable trend in the hospitality industry in India is gender equity, given the apparent preference for men in senior positions and women for more junior positions. Common prejudices in the industry include women not being able to cope with the pressure of long hours, night shifts, nor are able to maintain a healthy work-life interface. Further obstacles to woman leadership advancement across several industries include developmental discrepancies and cultural discouragement.
The issue called for a study on the antecedents of gender inequity in leadership roles for women in the hospitality sector in India, and Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WICCI), Hospitality & Tourism Council (founded in 2017 with an aim to improve the inclusiveness of women at the workplace), and the Indian School of Hospitality (ISH), India (an institute of higher education focused on reimagining hospitality education for today’s generation and tomorrow’s businesses ) took the issue on a serious note and carried out the study. The study was commissioned by WICCI Hospitality and Tourism and supported by Brigade Hospitality with ISH as the Chief Research Body for the unique study, with Dr. Payal Kumar, the Dean of Research and Management Studies at ISH as the lead researcher.
The Additional Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India, Ms Rupinder Brar, an integral part of the study’s initiation officially launched the approach study on gender equity in India’s hospitality industry on 10th March 2022.
For this study, Dr. Payal Kumar and her team conducted 23 in-depth interviews of executives at senior and mid-level positions in various organisations. The sample size included male and female professionals at different levels like Managing Director, Senior Vice President, Country Head, General Manager and Director Human Resources. These executives came from a range of hospitality brands across India, including Marriott International, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Radisson Hotel Group, Accor, OYO, Hotelivate, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Lemon Tree Hotels, Indian Hotels Company Limited, Fortune Hotels, and Hyatt Hotels & Resorts.
The study revealed several prejudices and barriers to women who aspire for leadership roles, which were broadly put under three categories:
At the individual level: Women employees face more work-life pressure than their male counterparts. Their networking capabilities are underestimated and it is assumed that they face mobility issues when they have to travel for work.
At the group level: Stereotyping by colleagues, preconceived notions and paternalistic attitudes of bosses are a major hindrance.
At the firm level: A lack of mentoring opportunities and gender stereotypes by employers pose a grave challenge.
Talking about the research, Dr. Payal says, “We live in an overtly patriarchal society, where women are expected to excel as employees at work and primary caregivers at home to children and elderly in-laws.” She goes on to say, “The study makes it clear that for women in India to reach the top of the booming hospitality industry, they not only need talent and drive but also deep structures of organisational and familial support.”
DilipPuri, Founder & CEO, Indian School of Hospitality, also said, “We’re proud to work with WICCI Hospitality and Tourism on this whitepaper and be the frontrunners in conducting research on gender equity. This research will be a big step towards creating awareness about the issues women face, and will help make hospitality more inclusive. It’s clear that even though women reach top positions in other industries, they are often underrepresented in hospitality and tourism. With this initiative, we aim to bring about a positive change in policies and make the industry a more progressive space for people, irrespective of their gender”.
Ms Kanika Hasrat, National President of WICCI Hospitality and Tourism and Area Director, IHCL also said, “This is a one-of-a-kind initiative by the WICCI Hospitality & Tourism Council in collaboration with Indian School of Hospitality. I would encourage the industry to review this research with a keen eye. It will help us work together to recalibrate our businesses and make them truly inclusive. The women at WICCI Hospitality and Tourism are aligned to work with industry partners to build focused conversations, provide mentoring opportunities, offer a level playing field for women and instill a culture of diversity in leadership. It is with this clear and ultimate goal of more women in leadership that we will all thrive”.
Ms. Ritu Chawla Mathur, National Vice Presidentof WICCI Hospitality and Tourism and Managing Partner Prognosis Global Consulting added “There couldn’t be a more apt time than the month that recognises women, to launch our Gender equality study, in tandem with this year’s IWD theme of ‘gender equality for a sustainable future. It’s all about changing the way the industry perceives women’s strength.”
(The author is a well-known travel writer. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)