One of the great pleasures of my role as Director of Hospitality, Travel and Leisure at The MBS Group is witnessing up and coming talent progressing through the industry. It is a perk of the job to see individuals taking inspiration from others, rising through the ranks and finally taking the helm. But when it comes to women in HTL, it’s clear that a lack of female role models can act as a barrier to success.
It was exhilarating, therefore, to stand on Tuesday evening in a room packed full of distinguished women in the sector. I was struck not only by the sheer number of inspiring role models in attendance, but by the breadth of their experiences and the variety of their career trajectories. We were gathered in Brewin Dolphin’s St James’s office to celebrate the launch of The Women to Watch in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure Index 2019.
Put together as part of a long-term partnership between The MBS Group and WiH2020, the Index profiles 90 individuals who are excelling in leadership, commercial impact or entrepreneurialism, as well as those who have made a wider contribution to the sector. Joined by each woman featured in the Index, top CEOs and industry leaders driving change in their organisations, we spent the evening discussing the fundamental importance of role models in achieving gender diversity.
The Index aims to find not the ‘top’ women in the sector, but to reveal the rich talent pool of women in HTL. Our goal was to demonstrate that there are inspirational women across all areas of the sector and at all levels. By undergoing a comprehensive exercise of seeking nominations, conducting personal interviews and reviewing each candidate against a number of criteria, we arrived at something which really is the first of its kind in its scale, breadth and intent.
Tea Colaianni said: “The Index has unearthed a monumental wealth of experience, personal and professional stories, successes, tips and lessons learnt. I feel proud to share the stories of so many talented women who can inspire the next generation of leaders.”
The night opened with a rousing address from Tea Colaianni, founder and chair of WiH2020, who is pushing the sector forward with industry-defining research, initiatives and mentoring programmes. “The Index has unearthed a monumental wealth of experience, personal and professional stories, successes, tips and lessons learnt,” she said. “I feel proud to share the stories of so many talented women who can inspire the next generation of leaders.”
Unlike so many projects of this kind, we wanted to go beyond presenting a list of names and job titles. In personally interviewing each woman, we uncovered invaluable insights, practical tips and personal stories that will no doubt serve as useful tools for the next generation of women wanting to excel in the HTL sector.
The list we arrived at is exceptionally diverse. As Dominic Blakemore, Group Chief Executive at Compass Group told the audience on Tuesday night: “It’s so important that women can look around our industry and see other women like them, and know that they can aspire to senior roles.” The women who feature come from varied educations, races, ethnicities, nationalities and ages. There is representation from every continent, and it includes women who have started their careers as investment bankers, lawyers and software engineers.
“It’s so important that women can look around our industry and see other women like them, and know that they can aspire to senior roles,” highlighted Dominic Blakemore, CEO at Compass Group
Throughout the evening, attendees also had the pleasure of hearing from Keith Barr, CEO at InterContinental Hotel Group, Sophie Dekkers, Director of Scheduling at easyJet and myself. Every speaker talked passionately about why profiling role models in the industry is crucial – and what can be achieved from highlighting the range of inspiring female leaders in hospitality, travel and leisure.
It was great to see that we have been able to showcase this rich talent pool, but there is still a way to go. According to research undertaken by The MBS Group, WiH2020 and PwC last year, less than 11% of CEOs in HTL are women and 87% of HTL companies have an all-male CEO, CFO and Chair leadership triumvirate. No wonder women lament the lack of female role models in leadership positions.
Despite this, the future looks promising. Our research found that 36% of direct reports into the Executive Committee level are female, and it is these up and coming women who will be the board members and c-suite appointments of tomorrow.
This is a small but important part of the work being done by WiH2020 and The MBS Group to move the dial on diversity and inclusion. However, the significance of role models cannot go understated in encouraging those from every section of society to enter the industry.
It has been a pleasure to work alongside WiH2020 on this project. I hope that the Women to Watch Index 2019 plays at least some small part in encouraging a diverse and open HTL sector – and that those from all backgrounds can find inspiration in the varied stories and experiences we have collected.