Moving from intention to action: a year of progress on diversity in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure

Over the last year, the Hospitality, Travel and Leisure (HTL) sector has taken some significant steps forward to improve diversity. In our latest report, From Intention to Action: Diversity in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure, which we were proud to publish this week in partnership with WiHTL and PwC, we were delighted to report that the industry has made big improvements in diversity across all metrics, and played host to countless inspiring initiatives that are collectively moving the D&I dial.

On gender:

Significant progress has been made on gender diversity in the sector. In fact, female representation has increased at each senior leadership level: Board, Executive Committee and Direct Reports (into the Executive Committee)

Today, 28.9% of Board level roles across the industry are held by women, indicating an impressive 5% increase on our findings from last year. Female representation on the ExCo has reached 27.2%, while a particularly encouraging 37.7% of Direct Reports in the sector today are women

• Despite this, there is still some way to go. The sector is not on course to reach the target set out by the Hampton-Alexander Review of 33% female representation across all leadership positions by the end of 2020. However, if the same rate of growth continues, then the sector could reach the target by the end of 2021 – only one year late

•  As part of our research, we took a particularly detailed look at operations roles in HTL – typically the cornerstone of hospitality businesses and often overwhelmingly male-dominated. We found that, promisingly, there have been some major shifts in this area. One pub company, for instance, reported that it has more female Regional Operations Directors than male, and another hospitality group told us that four out of five of its Operations Directors are women

•  Less positively, the report revealed a widening gap between those companies who are performing well on gender D&I and those who are not making any progress, demonstrating that progress in the sector is not widespread.


On ethnicity:

•  Encouragingly, Black, Asian and Minority-Ethnic (BAME) representation has also increased at every leadership level. 6.4% of Board positions in the HTL sector are now held by BAME leaders, representing an increase of 4.6% from the year before. Ethnic diversity has also increased to 3.4% on the Executive Committee and 4.8% at Direct Reports level

  However, looking beyond these headline figures, ethnic diversity in HTL is still far from reflecting the UK BAME working age population (12.5%)

  Additionally, advancement on BAME representation is not widespread across the sector. Strikingly, 83% of companies in our sector still have no BAME leaders on their Board, and 84% have no BAME leaders on their Executive Committee

  Our research identified that one of the biggest blockers to progress on ethnic diversity is a lack of available data. Almost half of companies do not collect ethnicity data at all, and of those that do, most say it is incomplete.

The report also goes beyond the numbers, to explore the status of D&I strategies in our sector. We found that, encouragingly, 80% of companies in HTL now have a D&I strategy in place – nearly double the figure of an adjacent sector. The report also reveals that the meaning of D&I is broadening in HTL, with many companies in our sector now considering other aspects of diversity, beyond just gender and ethnicity: LGBTQ, disability, age, nationality and social mobility are all becoming increasingly important.

Less positively, the research in this report reveals a disconnect between the sector’s leaders and its grass-roots employees on progress in diversity. By carrying out a first-of-its kind survey of 1,500 grass-roots employees in HTL, PwC found that 65% of those surveyed feel that they’ve seen no signs of improvement on diversity, compared to the 77% of senior leaders we interviewed who said their companies have made significant progress in the past year. It therefore remains clear that the positive change happening in the HTL sector will take time to be felt throughout each organisation – and that leaders in our sector need to be much better at communicating the myriad of phenomenal D&I activities underway to their grass-roots employees.

Another blocker to progress is a lack of available data. The report reveals that just one third of companies in the sector believe they have the right data to track diversity in their organisation. For a sector that relies so heavily on data to make critical decisions day-in-day-out, we were surprised by how many companies still don’t hold the appropriate information to inform human capital decisions.

From Intention to Action also explores how the WiHTL collaboration platform is fundamentally changing what diversity and inclusion looks like in our sector. Companies representing more than 1.9 million employees have joined the platform, which is bringing the sector together through its series of masterclasses, training programmes and mentoring schemes. Thanks to WiHTL, vital areas such as flexible working, menopause in the workplace and women returners are being seriously discussed by our industry’s most influential leaders.

Our objective with this report was simple: to be able to hold a mirror up to the Hospitality, Travel and Leisure sector so to understand the true state of diversity and inclusion as we move into a new decade. With the knowledge that “what gets measured gets done”, it is our hope that this report will provide businesses with the understanding to drive meaningful change in their organisations. After all, creating diverse leadership teams in the sector is not only right morally, but is a commercial imperative to better reflect the population we collectively serve.

We hope that this report, which you can read in full here, will provide businesses with an understanding of the status of diversity and inclusion in the HTL sector – and will give some insights into how other companies in our industry have succeeded in moving their own D&I dial. The MBS Group will continue to be an advocate of diversity and inclusion, and it is our hope that this report will play some small part in driving positive change across the industry. | @TheMBSGroup