Castell Project: Black hospitality representation decreased in last year

In spite of industry statements of support, Black employees lost its share of hospitality industry employment and remained under-represented in leadership over the past year.

Those are the findings of the “Black Representation in Hospitality Leadership 2021” report released by The Castell Project Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the careers of women professionals in the hospitality industry.

“Hospitality is even more dependent on Black employees than other industries in North America, so equity and inclusion will be vitally important to the industry’s ability to attract employees post-COVID,” said Peggy Berg, chair, Castell Project. “This is a time of remarkable opportunity, as virtually every company in the hospitality industry restructures at once. As McKinsey & Company reports, ‘diverse companies outperform industry peers over time, and the penalties are getting steeper for those lacking diversity.’ This is the hospitality industry’s rare chance to open opportunity to diverse employees and to rebuild equitably.”

The report shows the public face of hospitality industry leadership. Analysts captured information from the websites of hotel companies based in the U.S. and Canada listed in the STR Directory of Hotel & Lodging Companies. Each entry was reviewed twice, once in the company website and then compared to the LinkedIn profile. The dataset includes 7,243 people in 801 companies for 2020. Statistics shown reflect employees from the level of director through CEO. Highlights of the report:

  • Black representation in leadership for the public face of the hospitality industry fell from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, only 11% of the 801 hotel company websites reviewed for this study showed Black executives (director through CEO) compared to 16% of 630 company websites in 2019.
  • Black executives represented 1.6% of hospitality industry executives at the director through CEO level on company websites in 2020. This is 10.9 times lower than their 17.5% share of hospitality industry employment. This indicates that advancement is not equitable for Black employees in the hospitality industry.
  • One in 5.7 industry employees is Black compared to one of 49 VPs and one of 58 EVP/SVPs shown on websites at year-end 2020.
  • Average employment in traveler accommodation fell 35% (by 479,000 people) from 2019 to 2020, despite full employment in the months before the pandemic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The hospitality industry let go a higher proportion of its Black workforce than other employees. Black employees comprised 17.5% of traveler accommodation employees in 2020, down from 18.8% in 2019. The hospitality industry also let go a higher proportion of Black employees than the overall average for U.S. businesses. In 2020, 12.1% of all people employed were Black, down only slightly from 12.3% in 2019.
  • Korn Ferry reports that Black people hold 5% of executive positions across all industries and 4% at S&P 500 companies. This compares to the hospitality industry at 1.6%.
  • Intersectionality, the combined impact of race and gender is more pronounced for Black women at each higher level.

“This is a pivotal moment,” Berg said. “Because of the scale of business disruption during the pandemic, how we bring people back to work, and who we bring back, will define the industry for years to come. This is a pivotal moment as we shape the industry for a diverse future marketplace.”

A full copy of the report can be found on the Castell Project website at

For more on how the hospitality industry is focusing on the issue of diversity and inclusion, be sure to sign up for our upcoming Hot Topics session, “Breaking the Barriers: Creating an Industry for All,” scheduled for Wednesday, May 19, from 3-4 pm (EST).