I wrote an article several months back concerning the next Mr. Hotel. I received several responses from the industry—some were humorous, some failed to get the point I was trying to make, and some ran the gamut from absurd to nonsensical. However, there was one response that did pique my interest as well as my sense of ethics, for it alluded to the fact that my article addressed only Mr. Hotel—there was no mention, or seemingly room for a Ms. Hotel.
In writing the earlier article, I did explore the idea of combining a Mr. and Ms. Title; however, upon reflection and drawing on personal experience and some Google research, I came to the conclusion that the Ms. Category, at present, is not as tenable or obtainable as it has been for men. That is changing, of course, but like most change, it is a slow process and will take many years for any kind of hotel General Manager (GM) male/female parity to happen.
I am talking about female hotel general managers and not female owners of hotels—there are many female hotel owners, but I don’t think I would be going out on a limb by stating that the vast majority of female-owned hotels are managed by male general managers.
I would venture to state that 90%+ of all Three Star and above hotels, whether chain or non-chain, are helmed by a male GM. Also, for the record, let me state that there are female hotel general managers out there, and very good ones at that, that have earned their position through very hard work—harder work, I would venture, than their male counterparts. The less than (probably) one percent of female GMs that have made it, though, have not broken the glass ceiling; they’ve only managed to dent it here and there, akin to a pebble denting one’s windshield.
But the times are a changing and, over time, I am sure the hospitality industry will welcome more and more female hotel General Managers into its fold. In the more than 40 years I’ve spent in the hospitality business, I have come to perceive several impediments to a faster male/female parity in hotel GMs.
First, there are very few females in the pipeline that are aspiring to become the next Ms. Hotel; that pipeline does not seem to interest most women going into the hospitality business, and my research seems to bear that out. In my research, I get the feeling, the sense, that most female hotel GMs fell into that position either through family ownership of the property and “the daughter” took over the running of the property by default rather than strived for it, or the female “did her time” climbing the ladder and working the various positions and were next in line to fill the position. In either case, even though the position may well make the person into a great GM, the position achieved was through default and not through “want.”
Also, I get the sense too that most women who go into the hospitality profession do not aspire to be a GM but to control this or that department, whether it’s Marketing, Accounting, Booking, Conventions, Logistics, etc. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that, for if that’s what they want and achieve it, they have accomplished their goal.
Finally, too, I get the sense that many women get into the hospitality business as a stepping stone to more lucrative service oriented professions—professions that otherwise would not consider them initially or are too expensive for them to get into initially. In other words, they use the hospitality industry as their two, three, or more years experience on their résumé for justification to get hired for the profession they really want to go into.
I reiterate, I am not overlooking the reality that the hospitality business is male dominated and that a glass ceiling does exist and that there are entirely too many male chauvinists “running the show” and do not want female peers to contend with. And yes, there are some very successful female CEOs that run hospitality companies, but as talented and knowledgeable as they may be, the reality as I see it, is, that they lack passion.
I know, I know, I will anger many of you in the industry, but that does not make my assertion any less valid. Let me make myself clear: The vast majority of females in the hospitality industry, no matter what level they are at currently, do not have or posses the passion of the industry that their male counterpart do!
Let me show you one indicator of what I mean: The dearth of females, either chairing or participating in the many hospitality industry Round Table discussions held throughout the country.
I have worked with many female owners of hotel properties and I have asked them if they would be comfortable with a female GM. Without exception, they have all said, NO! And the reason for that NO, is that female GM’s don’t have the drive to run the property. Male hotel property owners were no different in their response.
All successful Hotel GMs, as well as all successful CEOs no matter the industry, is successful because they believe passionately in what they are doing and it is that passion that provides the vision they have before them every instant during their tenure in the business. That passion may be the modern equivalent of the jungle/hunter/killer instinct that helped the human race to survive.
Whatever it is, most women today do not possess it.
So, until women can compete at the same or higher level than their male counterpart, the hospitality business will remain male dominated.
An update to this article, I just finished reading “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg and I agree with her, women need to lean in and raise their hand. They need to sit at the table and be counted. Until that happens the void will exist.