Castell Project: Women in Hospitality Industry Leadership Rising

ATLANTA—Officials of Castell Project Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the careers of female professionals in the hospitality industry, has released the “2020 Women in Hospitality Industry Leadership” report. Now in its third year, the report benchmarks the hospitality industry’s performance in women’s careers in leadership.

“Even though a great deal of distance still needs to be covered to reach true gender parity, we were delighted to find the pendulum starting to swing in the proper direction,” said Peggy Berg, president, Castell Project Inc. “We are seeing an acceleration of women in leadership roles across the political, civic and business spectrum. This is supported by the pipeline of graduates coming out of colleges and universities, by the strong and deep bench of female talent currently at work in numerous industries, including hospitality, by the opportunities created as baby boomers retire, by the share of wealth now controlled by women and by widespread interest among both men and women in realizing the benefits of this cultural shift.”

In October, Heather McCrory, Accor CEO of North & Central America, was selected as the winner of the first Castell Award, which honors a female leader in the hospitality investment arena. “Heather stood out as a powerful female making a difference in the industry,” said Berg. “She understands wholeheartedly that as part of an international hospitality company, a more diverse team is a better performing team. Heather is an inspiration to other women as they find their own paths to success.”

Key takeaways include the following:

  • Seven women were promoted to CEO in 2018/2019 in the dataset represented by the STR Directory of Hotel & Lodging Companies. This is a 20% increase in the number of female CEOs in the dataset.
  • Overall, women held 8% of hospitality industry leadership positions in 2019, including managing director, president, partner, principal and CEO roles in both datasets used in this study. The hotel company dataset showed 18% of C-suite executives were women compared to 14% in the more real estate-oriented conference dataset.
  • One in four presenters at hotel investment conferences was a woman in 2019. This is an improvement since 2016 when the figure was one in eight.
  • Women in hotel companies remain most strongly represented in leadership roles in accounting, human resources, legal, marketing and revenue management. Operations and asset management are getting stronger representation at the VP level and should see improvement at the EVP/SVP level and above soon, according to the report. Women remain the minority in the information technology and investment-related fields.
  • Women are 21% of investment conference attendees, nearly flat over the past four years.  Brokerage, finance and construction continue to have few women even at the VP and director levels. They are not moving toward gender-balanced leadership as rapidly as their clients, according to the report.

“It is heartening to have the statistical information that demonstrates companies are beginning to take notice that gender diversity is good for the bottom line,” Berg added. “However, the Castell Project is nowhere near its goal of seeing women in more than one of three C-suite positions in every major hospitality organization. Research continues to prove that companies with greater gender diversity are more profitable and often can approach new issues and opportunities with a fresher perspective made up of many differing voices. We look forward to the day when our mission is complete, but will continue to track and work diligently until we achieve those goals.”