Report: ‘Worrying’ lack of women at the top of hospitality, travel and tourism companies

Travel and tourism is one of the world’s most gender diverse industries, with a 50-50 overall split between men and women, but female representation at senior management level and above is abysmally low, according to a new report by hospitality consultancy Aptamind and World Tourism Forum Lucerne.

The report reveals that female representation falls to 40% at mid-level management and 33% in senior management. In the C-Suite, 19% of roles are filled by women, with only five firms led by a female CEO. This is echoed at board level, where 24% of board members are women, 8% of boards include no women at all and there are only six female chairs.

The report analyzes data from 100 publicly listed companies in the travel and tourism industry across hotels; casinos and entertainment; airlines; airports; OTAs and travel companies; cruises; and restaurant chains/food & beverage companies. Together, they employ 6.2 million people across 120 countries, with a total market cap of more than $1.6 trillion.

While 24% of C-Suite execs at F&B companies are women—the highest proportion in the industry—the cruise sector lags behind with a disappointing 10%. Hotels have the highest proportion of female board members at 29%, and casinos and entertainment firms bring up the rear with 19% female representation.

“While many organizations are working on promising solutions and have taken significant steps to address gender diversity, it has not resulted in accelerating gender diversity into a collective, cohesive movement that motivates action at scale,” said Aradhana Khowala, CEO/founder, Aptamind Partners and board member at World Tourism Forum Lucerne.

As well as analyzing each part of the travel and tourism industry in detail, the report examines the seemingly impenetrable glass ceiling between senior management and the C-Suite, shines a light on nations setting positive examples and explains how governments and private sector companies can improve gender equality.

“As many businesses in our sector will be forced to restructure and as companies rebuild teams and organizational structures, this could be a great time for different, more diverse, leaders to emerge,” Khowala said. “If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it is a reminder that the human spirit is capable of tremendous achievement when faced with a crisis. The diversity and inclusion crisis needs the same can’t-fail mentality to solve. Despite the mounting challenges I am more convinced than ever that the travel and tourism industry is up to the task.”

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).