‘More women leaving hospitality sector than joining’

New research from WiHTL finds that, over the course of the pandemic, more women have been leaving the hospitality, travel and leisure industry than joining it.

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Women have left the hospitality, travel and leisure industry more than they have joined during the pandemic, according to new research from WiHTL, which also showed the representation gap at senior levels of the sector.

The study of employers representing around 115,000 employees, in partnership with HR DataHub, found that more women are leaving the sector than joining at every level except director level. And despite the employers taking part having a female-dominated workforce – 59% of employees were women – more women were leaving than men.

Representation of women was slightly down across all levels, including director level – except senior manager levels which saw an increase. Women were slightly more likely to be furloughed than men – 62% compared to 56% of men. They were also more likely than men to be made redundant, except at senior manager level.

The study showed starkly some of the issues that may be driving the lack of women in senior roles in the sector. 83% of women working in frontline roles worked part time and 50% did at supervisor levels. However, at more senior levels the figures were in single digits – 6% for directors, 8% for senior managers and just 5% for managers.

The research also looked at gender equality barriers and found that lack of affordable childcare was the single biggest barrier, followed by lack of flexible working and gender bias. Respondents said the thing that would make the most difference would be seven day a week funded childcare, followed by flexible working and an increase in childcare funding.

In addition it found that, while flexible working was offered by many employers [even if this was mainly at lower levels], there was next to no school hours support or phased retirement and access to annualised hours was low. There was also a lack of support for returners.

Tea Colaianni, Founder & Chair WiHTL, said: “The results of the research are troubling and require meaningful and urgent action at all levels. This is not the time to slow down our individual and collaborative efforts towards creating more inclusive environments. This is the time to invest in diverse talent, to create sustainable outputs and to eliminate inequalities.”

Career progression

In a webinar to launch the findings held during National Inclusion Week, WiHTL’s Joanna Aunon hosted a panel discussion. Oliver Black, Director of Bright Horizons, spoke about the need for employers to go further on childcare support and not to think that having a policy on maternity return, for example, means they have solved the retention problem. “It is about the career trajectory,” he said.

And, citing PwC, he said it is important for employers to allow people who go part time the opportunity to increase their hours, for instance, as their children get older. Better promotion of policies like Shared Parental Leave are also important when it comes to gender equality, added Black, and it is vital that employers show that they won’t affect employees’ career progression.

Juliet Turnbull, CEO of 2to3days, said small changes can make all the difference, for instance, understanding pinch points such as the school day or calendar. Doing so, she said, would help parents integrate their work lives and families.

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