Researchers have found a huge gender imbalance across the leisure sector, with less than 10% of CEO level positions held by women, according to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
Data from the world’s largest publicly-listed hotel, casino and entertainment groups was studied by consultancy Aptamind Partners, with the support of the WTTC. Their report finds a 50-50 gender balance across the industry, but when it comes to senior positions, women are not equally represented.
The gender gap begins to show as early as middle-management. Less than half of mid-level positions (42%) are held by women. By senior management, the proportion of women has fallen further, with a colossal 67% of senior roles occupied by men.
If you’re looking for women at executive level, you have only a one-in-five chance of finding one. And when it comes to the very top jobs, only seven percent of those promoted to the highest positions are women.
“This issue goes beyond equity and fairness,” said Julia Simpson, president and chief executive of WTTC, adding that “companies need to hold themselves accountable to guarantee progress is made over time. Putting women on centre stage of travel and tourism will ensure a better future for the sector.”
Among leisure companies, the percentage of female board members has grown by 11% in the last 15 years. The situation is slightly more positive in the hotel sector than other areas, with an improvement in the proportion of female executives, but this has not led to more women in leadership roles. Indeed, since Alison Brittain left Premier Inn owner Whitbread last year, not a single major hotel chain worldwide has a female chair or CEO.
Still, it is not all doom and gloom. The percentage of female chairs of the boards of casino and entertainment companies doubled from 6% to 12% between 2019 and 2021 and the percentage of female CEOs tripled from 3% to 9% over the same period.
We need a wholesale shift in the way we think and talk about gender and leadership. And we need to go beyond well-meaning initiatives and box-ticking exercises and start taking concrete steps to redress the current imbalance.Aradhana Khowala, CEO of Aptamind Partners and report author
Her report puts forward six inequality-busting recommendations the leisure industry could take on board, from improved disclosure, reporting, and tougher independent regulation, to incentives for progress on diversity issues.