Eye on Hospitality: Women Blazing Trails in Hospitality Industry

Eye on Hospitality: Women Blazing Trails in Hospitality Industry https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/KatCole-cin.jpg

By Paul Schlienz

As we gear up for Women’s History Month, coming in March, it’s a good time to reflect on the immense progress and major contributions have made to the hospitality industry.

“There are more women in restaurant management and ownership positions than virtually any other industry,” Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said. She added that restaurants provide “opportunities to women of all ages and at all stages of their careers, from owners to managers to college students to retirees.”

The numbers bear this statement out. At some point in their lives, 61 percent of adult women have worked in a restaurant while women-owned restaurants are growing at a faster rate than restaurants overall. In fact, the National Restaurant Association’s own statistics show that the number of women-owned restaurants jumped to 40 percent, and 33 percent of restaurants are owned by women.

“Another 15 percent [of restaurants] are equally co-owned by women and men,” Sweeney added.

Restaurants, indeed, do provide more opportunities for women than ever before. In 2016, female managers surpassed their male counterparts at 51 percent of the workforce. And glass ceilings are being shattered all over the place as women rise to the highest leadership positions in the industry’s largest companies.

Kat Cole, president of Cinnabon, is one such example.

“It’s amazing the amount of support I have gotten and the amount of advocates there are for young women to move up in business,” Cole said. “All you have to do is accept their generosity.”

Best of all, the rise of women like Cole has nothing to do with tokenism. It is all about merit.

“Don’t make it about gender,” Cole advises young women. “If you think your success or lack thereof is about anything other than adding value to the stakeholders of the business, you are mistaken.”

Women also play important roles in the world of hotels although their rise to executive positions has been slower than their counterparts in foodservice. Nevertheless, according to Zoe Ho, assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, the reason for this disparity does not seem to be related to glass ceilings. Instead, many women working in the lodging industry want more flexibility in balancing professional and personal aspects of their lives than a demanding executive position would require, providing a smaller number of female candidates seeking promotion.

“I think women are different generationally,” Cate Farmer, general manager of Boston’s Ames Hotel told Ho. “There will be more women general managers in the next decade. There are more today than there were 15 years ago. Every decade changes the way women look at their careers and the notion of balance around family.”

The future, indeed, looks bright for women in the hospitality industry.

“I’m looking forward to the day when half of all company CEOs are women so the industry reflects the demographics of our nation,” Sweeney concluded.