‘Diversity in HTL sector increasing, but more work needed’

A new report shows improvements in diversity and inclusion in the hospitality, travel and leisure sector, but highlights the need for efforts to be ongoing.

women working in catering


Over four fifths of companies in the hospitality, travel and leisure sector are not on track to reach a 33% target for female leaders by the end of the year and 82% have no BAME leaders at board level despite improvements on last year and greater commitment to change things, according to a new report.

The Women in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure (WiHTL) Annual Report – Diversity in HTL: From Intention to
Action – 2020 Edition found 84% of businesses are still not on track to reach 33% female representation across all three leadership levels by the end of 2020, that less than 10% of Chair roles are held by women with only 17% of senior independent director [SID] roles – the role seen as a stepping stone to becoming Chair – being taken by females. The cross-industry average is 24%. It also found that 15% of companies profiled still have all-male Boards, while 10% are led by an all-male.

The report also found that 82.5% of companies have no BAME leaders at board level, 40% of HTL companies have no BAME representation at all at Direct Report level, 80% have no BAME leaders on their Executive Committee and there are no BAME leaders in the role of Chair, CEO or SID at FTSE 350 HTL companies.

Neverthless, the report notes some improvements on last year’s report with increases in representation at each of the most senior levels – Board, Executive, Committee and Direct Reports. The percentage of women on Executive Committees has increased across 43% of companies, and at Board level, that applies to almost half of companies (47%). Non-executive director roles account for a lot of the improvement at Board level –  36.4% of NEDs in the sector are women. The report also notes a marginal narrowing of the gender pay gap – down from 8% to 7.6%.  Meanwhile, a third of HTL employees surveyed believe that diversity and inclusion in their organisation has got better in the past year.

Elliott Goldstein, Partner, The MBS Group said: “The Hospitality, Travel and Leisure sector can be immensely proud of the progress it has made over the past year on diversity and inclusion.

Through our conversations with the industry’s Chairs, CEOs and HR Directors for this report, we detected a palpably different level of engagement and progress compared to the previous year – and there have been a number of diverse appointments in key Chair, CEO, SID and NED roles. Whilst there is still a long way to go, we believe that on its current trajectory, the sector as a whole is on course to reach the target of 33% female representation across the three most senior leadership levels by next year.”

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The report says that due to budget limitations for many with regard to Diversity and Inclusion collaborative initiatives across the industry may be the way to go to further tackle representation issues. Those that it highlights include WiHTL’s first ever industry-wide Mentoring in HTL programme, an extensive series of masterclasses, the first Women Returners in HTL Programme, the first ever Women to Watch in HTL Index and more. Moreover, dozens of CEOs have signed the Diversity in HTL Charter and at the launch of the report this week over 40 CEOs, Chairs, Non Executive Directors, institutional shareholders and private equity firms gathered to discuss its findings.

Tea Colaianni, Founder & Chair, WiHTL, said: “It’s great to see positive industry change along with so many companies in the last year joining the WiHTL collaboration community (it now reaches an employee base of 1.9 million people!). Last year’s intentions have been put into actions with tangible results but the report serves as a reminder that our work has only just begun.”


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