Opinion & Statements

Things, we want to get rid of in 2019: Patriarchy

Or: About Gender Inequity in the Hospitality Industry

by Franziska Altenrath

Well, you might consider this topic rather unrelated to straws, sheets and hotel slippers. If you do, I am happy we are talking about it.

With TUTAKA we are working hard on creating positive change in the hospitality industry. Positive change consists of a number of factors. When we work with clients, we advise them holistically. Society wants to see more good in businesses. Whilst approaches and initiatives by no means need perfection, they need to be holistic. Without the desire to drive change as a whole, people will challenge the commitment and seriousness behind the effort altogether. Gender diversity has its rightful place in every genuine sustainability agenda. 

On top, we are two women engaging in a world dominated by men. Only 25,5% of senior management roles in Hospitality, Travel, and Leisure (HTL) are being represented by women according to the Women in HTL 2020 report by PWC and KORN FERRY [1]. Taking out roles related to HR, the number decreases drastically to just 20%. The causes aren’t news and only shocking because they still exist: Lacking commitments, scarce solutions for childcare, little efforts to bring women back after they have taken some family time-off.

There is an actual business case [2] behind diversity and one would think that gender-related aspirations might start to matter. Unfortunately, not enough is being done. Especially small to medium sized companies continuously underestimate the opportunities of diversity and the dangers of patriarchal structures. There is an annoying persistence in the repetitive chants of problem deniers: Our doors are open. We do not discriminate. We employ and promote based on talent, skill and dedication, not gender.

What this attitude ignores is that whilst processes can largely be cleared of gender biases, the point of departure cannot. There are two main factors that create injustice from the very start. The obvious first one is our assigned task to grow, bear and feed babies. It is a challenging one and there are still not enough answers to support women in a way they stay connected to their jobs and positions if they want to. 

The second factor is a culture highly saturated by male supremacy. Most of those traces remain undiscovered. I myself do find it hard to see through. My first job was in the automotive sector. No surprise that female executives were hard to find. I remember moments of intimidation. None of them came out of ill intentions or malice. Some might have even been failed attempts of complimenting. They were the results of years and years of too many men and too little women in same the room. 

Recently, I have been watching a couple of movies from my teenage years. They have made me think. Whether it is “Love actually”, “The Women”, “Clueless”, “The Naked Truth”, “Crazy Stupid Love” – you name them – there is far too much evidence of sexist gender views. Working women are usually secretaries, fashion designers, fashion editors, actresses, dancers, singers, PR or wedding consultants. Men do either run after women in short skirts or magically fall in love with a woman defined by some kind of sweetness who happened to cross their way. Sweet or sexy are the options. Ideally both. I firmly believe that we should leave it to women to figure and define themselves – let it be sexy or sweet or both. But what we need is diversity of role models. If sweet and sexy is all there is we do have a problem.

Regulatory amendments, quotas and executive’s commitments are absolutely necessary. But they are just the beginning. Injustice starts way before applying to a job and does not stop after being hired. There is cultural patriarchy which is so embedded in the way we grow up, in habits and routines that even women find them hard to detect and let go. This is why change will not happen over night and probably neither until the end of 2019. What we need is a conscious process of debate, constantly questioning and demasking rules and behavioural patterns. We need more people to speak out loud and stand behind what might have been taken for granted to easily: Women and girls do matter to us. We need them. We want them. We will support them along their careers in ways that are meaningful to them. 

In 2019 we won’t eliminate patriarchy. But we want to see more posts, statements, commitments, formal decisions, initiatives, blog posts, mentorship programmes, company childcare, goals and steps towards them, female CEOs, entrepreneurships and board members, chair women. We want to see boldness and bravery. 

We will follow up on you, hospitality diversity. 

[1] PWC Women in Hospitality, Travel, and Leisure 2020 Study
[2] McKinsey Delivering Through Diversity Study 

Summary: 

  • Gender diversity has its rightful place in every genuine sustainability agenda. 
  • There is structural and cultural patriarchy. 
  • We need more women in executive positions to provide role models. 
  • There is a business case for diversity.
  • … but you better read the full article! 

Want to discuss this with us? 
Happy to hear from you!
Contact us

You'd like to work with us?
Check out our Workshops here