Graceful Powers

Women at the helm can bring about better commercial performance and push companies to build a family-friendly work culture.

Studies have been conducted to understand and convey the commercial benefits brought about by gender diversity in the workforce and in leadership roles of an organisation.

In The McKinsey Quarterly’s A business case for women, published September 2008, the authors found that beyond alleviating the talent shortage in the workforce, companies that welcome both males and females equally in its staff showed better economic performance.
Among the companies for which information on the gender of senior managers was available, those with three or more women on their senior-management teams scored higher on all nine organisational criteria than did companies with no senior-level women. The study, conducted on a sample of 58,240 people in 101 companies worldwide, referenced nine organisational criteria including Leadership, Accountability, Motivation and Innovation.

As well, companies with the highest criteria scores are found to likely have higher operating margins than their lower-ranked counterparts.
Despite the benefits of gender equality at the top, companies are still slow to bring more females to leadership positions. Five years on, the 2013 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Executive Officers report found that while women made up 52.4 per cent of the labour force in Fortune 500 hospitality companies, only 15.5 per cent rose to the top in executive positions.

Andrew Chan, founder, ACI HR Solutions, a specialist recruitment firm, said that despite the open, global nature of the travel and business events industries, progress in achieving gender diversity in leadership is slower than other industries.

Chan said: “(The industries we’re in) have traditionally been a more male dominated one – at a senior level – than others. In our annual (ACI Salary & Employment Trends Report), we noticed that (we tend to) get a higher female respondent rate at a younger level, age 25 and below, which tapers off as the age increases.

“What that tells us, is that as we get from middle management to leadership roles, the male presence becomes stronger. As much as some travel and hospitality companies are making a priority to retain female leaders, I think it is still a new concept among most of us.”
Chan shared that the larger global hotel chains in particular have initiatives to advance females into leadership position, “something that is happening in the last five to six years”.

He cited AccorHotels as an example, for having a programme that fast-tracks women into leadership roles.

In Chan’s opinion, travel and hospitality companies – including those in business events – will get better at achieving gender diversity at the top “as more women rise to leadership position” and inspire younger females in the company.

Furthermore, with the nurturing nature of women in general, companies could achieve a stronger connection with the millennial workforce which “generally like to be managed like a coach would his ball player, someone to motivate and mentor them” he said.

However, mentorship as a management style – regardless of the gender of the leader providing it – is beneficial across all age groups.
“One of the biggest advantages for a company would be the ability to tackle the typical high turnovers and talent shortage in the travel, hospitality and business events industries.

“A nurturing leader, be it a man or woman, can add longevity to an employee’s presence in an organisation. A lot of companies don’t factor in the cost of losing a staff, re-hiring and re-training,” he explained, adding that a staff who stays on longer with a company, learns more and is a more valuable asset for the industry.

Juliette Lim, vice president human resources for Wharf Hotels, whose president Jennifer Cronin was recognised as Mentor of The Year 2017 by ACI HR Solutions, commented that “businesses that embrace diversity… open up new opportunities, introduce new perspectives and generate creativity, energy and possibilities.”

Wharf Hotels is an example of a company with a gender diverse executive level. It has two female and two male vice presidents.
Lim revealed that the company’s 2017 Associate Engagement Survey results released in late-November had shown a record-breaking increase in general satisfaction and loyalty score and overall engagement score.
She explained: “The ratings give us an indication that our people are now much more engaged and satisfied to be part of the organisation, since we started this annual exercise in 2010.

“We do not specifically measure the positive response to a work culture based on the gender of the leaders but rather how effective our leaders are. As a woman however, I believe that female leaders approach management with a higher degree of compassion, and therefore create a more inclusive and humanistic environment where fellow female associates appreciate and trust that their needs are addressed.
“The new leadership culture as a whole has driven new policies, processes and initiatives that support a leaner, more productive and savvy work environment – moves which have benefited and been welcomed by all.”

Lim added that it is especially critical that the hospitality industry attains gender diversity at the top. “With the demands of…sophisticated travellers today, having a balanced mix of male and female employees, across different levels and functions, brings diverse perspectives, strengths, priorities, chemistry and behavioural impact to the service cycle.”

But will companies that make an extra effort to advance women into leadership position draw the ire of men?

Chan does not think so.

“The great thing is that as more females come into leadership roles, we will see a more family-friendly work environment that will ultimately benefit men as well.

“In the past, the work structure is so rigid. In the events industry for example, long hours and frequent travels come with the job, and anyone in it who hopes to break away from these traditions will find it hard, regardless of their gender. But as HR craft out a more balanced workforce, it will be pushed to look at better conditions for working mothers which in turn benefits working dads.”

Chan’s projection is not a future that has yet to happen. At Wharf Hotels, efforts have been made to improve staff welfare and overall benefit structure, such as vacation entitlements, schooling allowances, flexible-work schedules, in order to encourage more talented women to join its business and to attract those wanting to return to the industry – changes that are great for everyone.

This feature is part of TTGmice December 2017/January 2018’s cover story, Graceful powers

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