Women CEO Hoteliers: Where Are They?

A recent article I read stated that 6.4% of U.S. Fortune 500 companies are run by a female CEO — 32, to be exact. However, none of the CEOs mentioned were hoteliers. That’s not to say there are no CEO women hoteliers, for there are, but most of them arrived at their CEO position through ownership of their properties and not up through “the ranks.” Of and in itself, there is nothing wrong with that, especially since they are all very successful, but it may be an indicator that, for women who aspire to CEO in the hotel business, you have a better chance through ownership than through the normal “rise from the bottom” path. And by that last, I don’t in any way mean to imply that women do not/have not served their time in a variety of positions, they have, and have done an exemplary job at each level; after all, many of them serve on boards of directors and head up just about every corporate hotelier position, except CEO. Why is that?[su_spacer]
Male perception along with corporate vision, I will propose, is the leading cause of the lack of women hotelier CEOs. Bluntly speaking, from an idealistic economic minimalists’ (if there is such a thing) point of view, all businesses are in the business of making as much money as possible with the least amount of monetary outlay to provide a service to a community effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily to all concerned, from the stakeholders / shareholders, to the lowest employee, to the client, and to the community.[su_spacer]
And, bluntly speaking, again, in the world of BIG BUSINESS, no matter where in the world, the vast majority of corporate decision makers, almost regardless of profession, are men—and older men, at that—, and it is, for men, a lot easier to deal with other men in business dealings, for they understand, speak, hear, and see each other in the same light — they are, in essence, equals in status. Hence, perhaps that is one of the main reasons why the vast majority of CEOs are men, whilst business women, no matter how competent, are destined, to remain in the background for the time being—progress is slow—, providing immeasurable, invaluable services for the betterment of the organization they are a part of, with little hope of ever becoming the CEO of that organization.[su_spacer]
I believe that in today’s corporate world, most successful businesses are attempting or have found a balanced mix of male and female employees of various ethnic backgrounds that have helped that corporation to succeed in its vision. However, with that said, it bears repeating, rightly or wrongly, that most corporations are run by men and prefer dealing with other men, especially when it comes to business decisions that affect corporate vision.[su_spacer]
Mix all that with the hundreds of books published over the past 30 or so years that deal with male/female communications and practices, all, in essence, coming to the same conclusion, that male testosterone, and female estrogen don’t really mix, except when it comes to making healthy male and female babies.[su_spacer]
Male testosterone equates to aggression, while female estrogen equates to nurturing (passivity?). The corporate world is an aggressive world—corporations fighting for domination of their respective brands, and women are not perceived, especially by men, but by many women as well, to have the necessary fighting qualities to be contenders, much fewer winners. Please remember, that CEO’s are voted in by mixed gender board of directors and mixed gender shareholders and stakeholders.[su_spacer]
And for those women that have succeeded, so the probable male, and sometimes female, narrative goes, they had to learn to fight like a man; in other words, they had to change their personality in a way to be perceived by men as more of a man than a woman; they had to learn how to be aggressive in their dealings when called to do so, with one glaring exception—nomenclature: in business, when men utilize aggressive business tactics both in how they run their companies or in their dealings with others, they are aggressive, they play hardball, etc., for women to do the same, they are bitches, and they get that from both sides—from the men as well as the women.[su_spacer]
Successful CEOs are successful because they are able to express and sell their vision for growth/expansion to the board and to the shareholders. Women, of course, can do and do do, the same thing, but boards and shareholders also know or realize that in order for that vision to materialize in a timely manner, the CEO is going to have to be able to talk to and or influence a goodly portion of outside people, who, invariably, are men—and that is the reality.[su_spacer]
That reality, of course, is changing; the corporate world is becoming more and more diverse, but progress is slow. The glass ceiling in most professions is either entirely broken or full of cracks, with an occasional hole. The major problem is simple, women do not possess the passion that is necessary to become CEO.[su_spacer]
Women hoteliers, your time is coming! May it be sooner, than later!


Alan Campbell
Alan Campbell
ALAN is a highly accomplished, results oriented Hotelier with many years of experience in developing and delivering strategies and implementing solid organizational cultures that addresses the needs of the customer, colleagues, owners, community and industry. He has been in Las Vegas for over 30 years and has worked for the major strip hotels. Alan has spent some time in California, Los Angeles where he worked for the Radisson and Sheraton hotels. He considers the hospitality industry the best job in the world – it is the only place that both king’s and Paupers will visit you. Alan is also a featured contributor for, the “Global Hotelier’s Community.”

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    • One of my more recent articles, “Women CEO Hoteliers: Where Are They?”, elicited the following response from Erica Meyer: “What an infuriating article! If you want to help gender equality, start by filling your meetings, all meetings, with at least 3 women at the table. Can’t find any? – groom and advance them like hell. Agh!”

      On first reading Ms. Meyer’s comment, I almost dismissed it out of hand, as I felt she had not picked up on my argument, which was that the lack of women CEO hoteliers was due not because there are not more-than-qualified women in the hospitality business, but because the preponderance of upper level management worldwide are males, and males like to deal with other males more so than with people of an opposite gender, and that the people, both male and female, that select or vote for the CEO, know this, and vote accordingly, nor did she seem recall me mentioning that most boards of directors are ethnic and gender diverse.

      Upon further reflection, though, her answer does contain much to be desired in the business world—not just hospitality, but all other businesses as well—and should be pursued diligently by the current crop of business leadership, both male and female.

      Most, if not all, good educational systems have, in essence, one goal in mind—whether consciously or subconsciously—, to educate male and female leaders of the future, regardless of field of study. Most, if not all, Western educational systems get that, teach it, and support it. However, too many of the present and future business leaders, don’t, either through self-delusional bias, prejudice, arrogance, pride, or selfishness.

      All hotelier CEOs who act to advance and promote the venue they work for rather than how much money they can make for themselves are the kinds of leaders that will make the time to notice the people that work hard to make that venue successful, for that leader knows that it’s those people that make him, or her, look good—it’s never the other way around. And in so doing this, will be looking for potential candidates for promotion, male or female, and will make the time to get to know them, talk to them, but mostly listen to them. And yes, that CEO will make the time, as Ms. Meyer so aptly and cogently phrased it, “groom and advance them like hell!”

      All hotel chains have male and female members serving on their respective board of directors and any one of them presumably, potentially, could become the next CEO. So the problem, as I would argue, is not the dearth of qualified females, but the lack of moral courage of those that elect or hire CEO’s—whether collective stakeholders or board members.

      Most/all CEOs to be are proposed by a current CEO, chairman of the board, or a board vote for one of its current members, or a committee established just for that purpose, with the proposed candidate(s) being selected by the collective stakeholders or, if set up that way, by a majority board vote, and right now, the vast majority of candidates are going to be men. It’s the nature of the beast, whether one likes it or not.

      Or is it.

      Let me hypothesize the following scenario: I am a very successful CEO ready for retirement, but before I retire I want to nominate and help get my position a woman—Ana, to give her a name—that sits on the board of directors, whom I believe is more than qualified to assume my job. What leverage can I use to convince the chairman of the board and the rest off the board of directors and/or the stakeholders that Ana’s the best candidate for my job?

      Ana is liked and well respected by the board members; the department(s) past and present she’s run have all been praised by the higher ups, and none of her co-workers or the people working for her have ever registered any complaints.

      In other words, she’s exemplary.

      As for me, as the CEO, I know that all on the board, including Ana, have suggested a male replacement as the best choice for continued success.

      I disagree and I nominate Ana.

      And my main argument to convince all that Ana is not only the best candidate but the only candidate for my job will be based not on what she is, her resume, or her many accomplishments, though all that is important (but her peers already know that), but will be based on who she is, which not all have seen or are able to see.

      Ana’s accomplishments speak for themselves, but what doesn’t speak for itself and must be pointed out is the love she has not only for the business but for the people she works for, that work for her, and with her—people she credits for all her successes and promotions that have come her way but none of her set-backs or failures; those she owns herself. She exudes calmness of character in stressful situations that disarm and defuse without bruising egos. And, perhaps, most importantly of all, she listens attentively.

      All traits that are necessary for success.

      As for overcoming the perception that business men would rather deal with other business men, the best way I can think of for Ana to overcome that bias, is to always go into a meeting with the attitude that you have something to offer that will be of mutual benefit to all concerned, speak and use the language that emphasizes that, and never deviate from that script.

      After all, business is business, no matter who speaks it.

      And Erica Meyer, thank you for your comments, as they were the main (only?) impetus for this addition.

      If perchance you should revisit my website and read this, I hope it is to your liking.

      The fight goes on.

      The Hotel Guy

  1. Your points are quite right, Alan. However, I would expand the issue and related causes to other major leadership positions. Certainly, there are few if any CEOs in the industry. But, that can also be said of CFOs and even General Managers of major hotels. I began grooming and promoting females to G.M. positions in the late 1970s and without exception, they all performed well. I’m sure I wasn’t the first to do that, though female G.M.s were certainly a rarity in the 70s.

    Will it change? Perhaps, though I wonder how many females really want the stress that comes with those jobs. And, the stress for a female in those elevated positions is greater than for a male for many of the reasons you mention.