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‘Connect, Inspire and Empower’
IWH has a great role to play as we have women professionals from the hospitality across geographical locations and cultures.
Hospitality comes naturally to women, so making a career in the industry can be utilising their strengths to the core. They also make great managers just like men. In my own experience, having spent 23 years in the industry; I have felt the privilege of being a woman at my workplace. All careers come with their own set of challenges; I too have faced the ups and downs in my personal as well as professional life. But I have been able to meet all those adversities head on, due to immense support from my family as well as the mentoring I got from my seniors. I also have realised that not everyone might be as lucky as I, so Indian Women in Hospitality (IWH) was created as a platform for knowledge sharing, networking, ideating, mentoring and empowering. Another aspect being creating awareness about the industry still not understood well; especially with respect to careers for women.
As an educationist, trainer and counselor; I have addressed many career guidance seminars. I also counsel students who want to pursue a career in hospitality. During these sessions, I meet many parents who were concerned about the safety of their children joining the hospitality industry; especially guardians of girls. I find it surprising as we are in 2020; where the whole world is talking about rocket science, people are discussing virtual reality, artificial intelligence on one hand; on the other this exists in our society.
I graduated in Hotel Management in 1997 from IHM Mumbai, that time such questions were common. But in this era, it’s difficult for me to come to terms with such concerns. That’s when I took a firm determination that being a part of the industry and a responsible citizen of the nation – I will do whatever I can for the fraternity!
Charged with the idea, I created a Facebook page called the Indian Women in Hospitality (IWH) with the hope of getting good topics to write on. I was surprised with the response I got on the page. There were more than 400 lady professionals - from General Managers to CEOs to HR and sales heads of the various hospitality organizations. I realised that I had to do something bigger; for the kind of profiles that were there. Then the idea of a website came to my mind and this is how IWH was born. I had to take approval from my organization, I am thankful to my management for their support. It was one of the most empowering moments for me; it was my chance to give back to the fraternity.
IWH couldn’t just be a closed group on a social networking site, it had to be more professional, and the idea of creating a forum came then. Taking a professional approach and I created its logo, vision, mission, and the website. The ladies loved everything about it, it looked as if all were waiting for a platform like this. I asked a few ladies from the group who wanted to volunteer as moderators as I couldn’t keep a tab on what was being shared and as a back up the team helped immensely; keeping the group professional and engaging. There is substantial progress, in fact, something I never imagined. Things fell in place and found its path; without any blueprint. I was revisiting the journey so far and I’d fail if I didn't share my gratitude with the members, readers, supporters, and the fraternity.
There are about 1800 members of IWH - Indian lady hospitality professionals from around the world who are creating benchmarks.
Hotel industry needs to be a women friendly industry and the attitude reflected in its HR practices
Organisations need to take care of their women employees and the hospitality industry is no different. Women employees have a set of responsibilities even after they reach back home after putting in full day’s work in their offices. If they don’t have support from their families and organizations; it can create unwarranted stress for them. Many a time even women who are star performers are forced to leave their jobs leading to a ‘lose–lose’ for all. The industry realizes this and measures are being undertaken; in fact many organizations are now coming up with women friendly HR policies too. They could be - giving women employees’ flexibility in their work to manage home/ family or any demanding situation, part time employment options, child care leave, crèche facility, work from home, job sharing, flexible time, etc. are some options that are being considered. With a proper roadmap, these can be implemented and organizations can have robust Women friendly HR policies which truly will be empowerment to the working women. It is just the beginning but things look bright.
The ratios of women leaving the industry surpasses that of men
Though it is not true just for the hospitality industry but can be observed across different sectors. There are many reasons the topmost being responsibilities on the home front. Some women manage to create a balance by not being too ambitious when it comes to their careers. Due to lack of support, some quit altogether to take care of their responsibilities such as child care. When the children grow up they’d have lost a few years off their careers. Some don’t even want to go back and the ones who do start off from where they left or even lower. Some organizations are allowing women to start afresh through their ‘welcome back’ programs, even upskilling them. In my opinion, women require mentoring and then they can do wonders. They can contribute to and create great value for their organisations given the right opportunities.
The ratios of women progressing to the decision-making roles are quite few
Hospitality industry is touted as having long working hours but I don’t agree that working long hours are a key to anyone’s success. Women are also working long hours in professions that demand it. The impact of the work matters not the number of hours served. In fact many organizations are now looking at ways to reduce the work week, working 5 days a week and also helping their work force lead a well-balanced life. A well-rested person is more productive at work, hotel industry is also actively trying to manage work hours, though the nature of the job is such that it has seasonality and there are peak times when it may be difficult to manage. Some hotel companies are doing a good job with respect to managing their people and man hours.
Attracting women career aspirants into the hospitality industry
There is a good representation of women workforce in the hospitality industry but only at the lower levels of hierarchy; it thins down drastically as we move up the pyramid. Skills reports suggest that the top two industries having the best potential to be employers to women are banking and hospitality. However, data indicates that women do not stay in the industry because they feel excluded from informal communication networks and often feel overlooked when decisions regarding progression are made. Organisations need to focus on career path and succession planning for their women employees.
IWH has a great role to play as we have women professionals from hospitality across geographical locations and cultures. We share information, we educate, create awareness and we also mentor. We have the veterans and the freshers on one platform. There are many role models and inspirational personal journeys of the ladies shared on the website for all to read and take a few pages off their stories. We are turning one and we move forward with renewed enthusiasm and doing things that are meaningful! It has a mentorship programme where members connect to discuss and plan their careers or seek advice on the personal front. Healthy discussions on pertinent issues are a regular feature of the closed group. We have had some online training programs too. This is only the beginning, we are happy with the support we have received from the industry, we also see a continued long and fruitful association. We aspire to give back to the fraternity and the society by means of knowledge sharing or partnering in meaningful social causes.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house