Home Publisher's Point of View A Conversation with the Founder of the Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance

A Conversation with the Founder of the Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance

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Glenn Hasek

In case you missed it, hospitality veteran Rachel Humphrey officially announced the formation of the Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance this past week. I spoke with Rachel to learn more about the Alliance which first got rolling last fall just a few months after she retired from full-time employment after 30 years. With an interest in advancing women in hospitality, she reached out to some like-minded hospitality organizations to volunteer her time and quickly realized that the organizations were working on advancement issues but were not talking to each other.

“I reached out to six groups,” Rachel said. “We realized we were onto something. It grew organically from six organizations to 19. We added four more this past week.” A few examples of the organizations include: African Association of Women in Tourism and Hospitality, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, and Latino Hotel Association.

Rachel said her vision, or goal for the Alliance, is to help the member organizations move their needles farther and faster when it comes to advancing women in hospitality—whether in the C-suite or on public company boards.

The goal for the Alliance is to meet quarterly—whether in person or virtually.

Seeing Diversity Leads to More Diversity

“We are stronger together,” said Rachel, adding that there are numerous steps that can be taken to elevate women to higher positions in hospitality. One step is to have more candidates applying and qualifying for these positions. “We have to personally empower ourselves as well,” she said. Gaining in numbers is critical. “Seeing a diverse industry will lead to a diverse industry,” Rachel added.

While much progress has been made, much work needs to be done. “You have companies that don’t have a single female on their boards,” Rachel told me.

The current state of women in hospitality hits home for Rachel. “I want my daughters to feel empowered and for them to see female leadership,” she said.

The press release announcing the Alliance begins, “For every 10 hotel executives who are men, there is one woman executive. A new coalition aims to change that.”

AHLA Foundation Releases Related Report

Interestingly, also this past week, the American Hotel & Lodging Foundation (AHLAF)—a philanthropic organization that aims to elevate, educate, and empower the hospitality workforce—released the 2022 “Diversity of Hospitality Industry Public Boards” research report. The research findings represent data about hospitality industry public company boards after reviewing 30 companies and 262 board members. They reviewed 10-k filings on corporate brands of public hospitality companies based in the United States. Using a data range of six years to track progress, some of the key findings involving women include:

  • Hospitality public company boards comprised 22.5 percent women in 2021, up from 15.1 percent in 2017. The Russell 3000 averaged 25.6 percent female board members in 2021 and will reach 27 percent in 2022.
  • Two boards had no female representation.
  • Women are not a majority on any hospitality company boards.
  • The percent of executives listed in 10-k filings who are women increased from 8.6 to 21.7 percent between 2016 and 2021, including inside members of the board.
  • Female board members are most likely to work outside the company; 8.5 percent of female board members are employed by the company compared to 20.8 percent of male board members.

Women are making some progress, but it is not enough, and it is not fast enough. With an organization like Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance now collectivizing the efforts of many different organizations, one can expect more steps forward and fewer steps back for women in our male-dominated industry. Kudos to Rachel Humphrey for founding her organization and giving back to an industry she cares about so much. Our industry needs more like her.

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