Hotel, catering and tourism is an ever-changing landscape and is the largest, fastest-growing service sector, with an average female contingent of over 55% at global level. The progress women have made in recent years in the male-weighted hospitality industry is impressive but the continued recruitment, retention and promotion of women is crucial to their long-term success in this industry.
Guy Stehlik, CEO of BON Hotels, a South African-based company that owns, manages and markets hotels, whose core team is predominantly women, says, “It was not a conscious decision to employ women – ultimately, the BON recipe of hiring successfully comes down to a combination of attitude, qualifications, experience, chemistry and a desire to uphold the BON ethos, that of Good people. Good thinking. Good feeling.” He emphasizes that without exception the women he has employed show a great attention to detail and display strength in their individuality. “And, they can multi-task!” he adds.
Typically there seems to be a paradigm that women operate better within the rooms division and “frilly” departments such as sales, marketing, reception, reservations and revenue. Whilst this may be true, it would seem that women operate equally well if not better in high-pressure operations like food & beverage and management.
The ladies at BON Hotels agree that they all enjoy the diversity and challenges they face on a daily basis, the opportunity of meeting new people, and the very real potential for growth. Brenda Diedericks, Group Human Resources & Training Manager, adds, “The great thing about the hospitality industry is that you can explore so many different avenues – the potential to grow is endless.” The women relish the challenges of working in a young company where they get to experience different aspects of the business, and an added plus is that there is enormous scope for promotion within the company as they take on more clients.
A very real issue in any corporate environment is flexibility within the workplace with regard to juggling family and work. In our modern society it is important for leaders to offer a flexible environment for women in the workplace. Global trends are changing significantly as the corporate world realizes that they need to keep their moms happy. Businesses are incorporating nurseries and childcare facilities into their employment offering and flexible working hours are becoming a norm thanks to technology. As a family man himself, Guy understands the dynamic and is open to increased flexibility provided the team is meeting and exceeding goals and still “gets the job done”.
The lives of the BON women revolve around more than “Welcome to BON Hotels” and other niceties. During the interview one such ‘multi-tasker’ fielded numerous cellphone calls – one from the school about a sick son – landlines rang with urgent requests, and Skype messages bleeped, but the fluidity Natasha, Group Marketing Manager, maintained throughout was brilliant. “Sorry, getting back to the BON Blueprints ….. “
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, South Africa’s gender gap has shifted only marginally with 42% women entrepreneurs in 2013. The report suggests that women should be playing a more significant role and that initiatives should be looked at to improve this balance, and also in relation to earnings – in only seven countries do women take part in business at rates equal to men’s – positions held within an organization, securing finance and skills development. Jacky Maulgue is the Sales Director at BON Hotels and feels that more women should be promoted into senior roles and that good mentorship programmes should be put in place. “Give women the opportunity to climb to the very top of the ladder!”
So, do women see the world through a different lens and, in turn, do things differently or just better?
Over the next 10 years it is estimated that one billion women will enter the global workforce and with hospitality and tourism being one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world, women have an extraordinary opportunity to shape its future.