Let’s talk about the ‘S’ in the ESG game

February 9, 2021

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Xenia zu Hohenlohe

Written by Xenia zu Hohenlohe for HOTELSMag.

As discussed before in this blog, ESG stands for Environmental Social Governance and is the new framework for greater transparency, greater efforts and greater good. It is a step up to CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility, the term many companies or managers might be more familiar with.

Either way, both incorporate the world ‘Social’ and given that we are still in the midst of a pandemic, which is having such severe impact on the social fabric of our communities, I want to focus on one social topic in particular, which the hospitality sector can do much to improve on: gender equality.

As it turns out, our industry is actually very good at employing an equal amount of female as well as male team members at entry level, with gender equality in developing countries being nearly at an equal 50/50.

But the minute you climb up the hierarchical ladder to management, c-suite or board level the percentage of women in those ranks shrinks down to a shocking 7%. This is due to a number of reasons, such as biased perception about a woman’s competence when it comes to managerial role or questioning of her dedication when the issue of family/work balance comes into the equation. It also includes sexual harassment, which is rife but not much talked about, making it a lot harder for women to feel at ease in some of the roles in this sector.

Added to that there is also a pay gap, whereby research undertaken by two professors at the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne has shown that bonus payments are usually up to 3% less for women than for their male counterparts.

With COVID having hit many particularly in our sector with unemployment, many more women seem to have lost their jobs or have struggled more as home schooling is also requiring them to cover more childcare than their male counterparts.

Many of the advances we seem to have made over the last couple of decades on gender equality are being threatened to be erased.

Some of the key challenges that need addressing seem to be:

1. Flexibility on working hours and structures: We have all seen over the last 12 months how much can be achieved in the home office and whereas many jobs within the hospitality sector require physical presence there are also many that can be done on a more flexible timetable and remotely – it just needs courage and imagination to re-think old structures

2. Hiring policies and interviewing processes: Ensuring the fair opportunities really are offered and pro-actively promoted as well as having transparency on these

3. Infrastructure and childcare opportunities: Finding more spaces in hotels which can be offered for female workers with small children (such as bedrooms for when they have late shifts where they can spend the night with their children, kids clubs being accessible for worker’s children, too, or spaces for nursing mothers).

To address these shortfalls, there are a number of networks and organizations, which have been created by and for women within the hospitality industry to join and help drive change. Be it through research, mentoring schemes, pushing for more female participation in industry events and consequently changing some of the working conditions, which make it close to impossible for women with families to rise through the ranks within the hospitality sector.

What is certain is that we can all work on this together as most international organizations, starting from the World Bank, to the IMF, to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have all proven through various studies that both companies as well as countries are financially more stable, more adaptable to change and healthier environments to work in when there is gender parity in all ranks.

Two of these above-mentioned organization are:

WiH: Women in Hospitality, founded by Lissa Engle, the MD of the Berkeley Capital Group, is a best-in-class community which believes that by collaborating, greater impact can be achieved and therefore raise the game to create a hospitality industry that is more diverse and inclusive. Key pillars are mentoring, knowledge share and outreach with webinars, topical discussions and coaching sessions organised on a global online platform where members can engage cross-region and cross-segment.

WiH collaborates with leading global hospitality conferences to promote more diverse and inclusive panels and will also launch an annual global representation report to provide insight into BAME and women representation in the industry on an annual basis.

This is by membership only, equally for male and female professionals. Here is the link.

LeadingHotelieres is a chapter of Hoteliersguild, created by hoteliers Frank Pfaller. It is a private and independent society of active luxury hoteliers created with the aim of bringing the hospitality industry’s best and brightest to a roundtable of ideas in a highly personalized, strictly confidential, direct and friendly collaboration.

This chapter is by invitation only and has made it its mission to drive certain targets set within SDG5 for Gender Equality of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Here is the link.