July 2023

“The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to successfully recruit and retain female talent.”

“The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to successfully recruit and retain female talent.”

Drayton recently sat down with Ann Elliott, a portfolio Non-Executive Director, Board Advisor, Consultant and all-round voice of reason from the hospitality industry. Ann comes from a Marketing background and has built a large network over the years, especially as host of the annual Propel Women Leader’s conference.

As our clients at Drayton, start paying closer attention to their diversity and inclusion efforts from a recruitment perspective, Drayton were keen to get Ann’s take on the situation in the Hospitality industry specifically, and any words of wisdom she might be willing to share…

What are the key challenges that the hospitality industry currently faces in terms of D&I?

Diversity and inclusion are big problems in the hospitality industry, but, one of the most noticeable issues currently facing the industry, is the lack of female representation at Board level.

Getting more women to work in hospitality is not a problem at entry level. However, when you reach Area Manager level and above, the % of males to females starts to shift slightly. Ultimately, you reach C-suite level where the situation is awful and women more or less “disappear from the workforce”.

The retention of women in hospitality into senior leadership positions clearly seems to be a significant issue for the industry, that is currently being neglected.

How are these challenges being addressed or overcome?

The main thing we need is some women to lead the way and pass the ladder down to others. This in turn will lead to greater education – for other women but also men from the industry. In effect, once we have success stories, the path forward will likely be easier for others to follow.

More businesses need to set examples and champion certain individuals e.g., Caravan – a female-founded business. They seem to have no problem recruiting and retaining exceptional female talent – they are appealing because they have a more flexible attitude.

Additional incentives e.g., well paid maternity and paternity leave need to be advertised and considered. All these additions help to generate loyalty to a business and employer – developing a mutual sense of trust and appreciation.

What role do you believe leadership plays in driving D&I efforts within hospitality organisations? How can leaders effectively support/promote these?

Leadership is the most important part of this issue. We don’t see enough women taking it upon themselves to be leaders. Ann recommends using facts to help compare and contrast board performance for those with and without female representation in an attempt to positively prove that female presence makes a difference. With greater levels of buy-in, more leaders, both female and male are likely to make more effort in this area.

However, whilst the facts can’t be ignored, there is a real lack of them. The industry desperately needs someone / somewhere to take ownership for gathering and publishing the data, as is done in others e.g., grocery.

What advice would you give to organisations that are just starting their D&I journey? What are the first steps they should take to make meaningful progress in this area?

As an Organisation:

  • Actively listen to what people, especially women, want; then be more than generous. Be as flexible as you can. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to successfully recruit and retain female talent.

  • Encourage idea sharing and promote an environment where feedback is welcomed, and women feel motivated to share examples of “this is what will help make my career here a success”. Does that include a well-lit car park for when their shift finishes? Does that include flexible hours to accommodate for the school run?

  • Networking at relevant events and asking the right questions can be invaluable. Allow people to find mentors and encourage cross-function collaboration so people can learn from one another.

As an Individual:

  • Educate yourself and others. Join as many training courses and attend as many seminars as possible. Join and participate in as many groups and networks as you can to continue the discussion. If you can’t find one, create one; learn how to make your voice heard.

  • As a woman, take responsibility for your own development; ask for a development budget. If you don’t ask you won’t get. Know where you want to get to and don’t give up in pursuing those ambitions. As a man, ask how you can support your female colleagues and act as an ally. Listen to their experience and brainstorm how to help.

  • Note down your successes as you go. In times of doubt this will be a useful resource to reflect on. Keep track of the wins on your CV to help develop your voice.