Hotel Industry Could Use More Of A Woman’s Touch

Sallie Krawcheck’s departure earlier this month from Bank of America Corporation is just one more example of the ongoing difficulty women executives have had securing, as well as maintaining, C-level jobs in the hospitality, finance and real estate fields. Krawcheck—whose job was eliminated after running the wealth management division of the nation’s largest bank for the past two years—leaves a noticeable void of women holding senior-level positions in the aforementioned industries. One could definitely say that Krawcheck’s untimely departure is a classic example of “taking one step forward and two steps back.”
I was curious to know more about where women executives from hospitality, finance and real estate ranked in comparison to their counterparts from other industries. As a result, I turned to FORTUNE magazine’s current “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” rankings and what I learned surprised me. Aside from a few non-commercial banking and asset management executives being ranked (including Krawcheck at number 26) no other women from the hospitality, finance and real estate industries cracked the Top 50. According to the FORTUNE data, women realizing the most success worked in the technology and branded company industries.
Coincidentally, the same day I learned of Krawcheck’s ouster from Bank Of America, the September 7th issue of HOTEL BUSINESS® was being put to bed and page layouts were beginning for the edition you’re reading right now. Both issues include coverage from the Hotel Business Executive Roundtable Series. The theme of September 7th event was “Redefining Luxury: New Tactics for a New Decade” and on page 2 of this issue, you’ll find coverage beginning of the “Unconventional Wisdom: Identifying Brand Opportunities” Roundtable. Despite my involvement in the events, I was a bit surprised when I came to the realization that of the 22 executives featured in the Roundtable coverage there were only two women.
My initial reaction was to figure out what we were doing wrong. I wondered aloud, “could these lopsided figures be accurate and reflective of what’s really going on the marketplace?” Then I took into account the male versus female ratio at any of the hotel industry investment conferences: Enough said. Anyone who has attended ALIS, NYU, or the Lodging Conference can testify that these events are overwhelmingly dominated by men. Right or wrong, it made sense our events would skew similarly.
It seems that as an industry we could do a better job of recruiting, promoting—from both a career progression and public relations standpoint—and most importantly, retaining, the best and brightest female executives. There’s little question that our industry has a tremendous amount of female talent within its ranks, nevertheless many don’t seem to be staying for their entire careers or advancing at a reasonable pace.
Are women perhaps forced to deal with situations that men do not? Do they face some sort of ceiling as a result of an “Old Boys Club”? Are top graduate schools advising their best female students to go explore industries other than hospitality, finance and real estate? I don’t proclaim to have the answers but as an industry we owe it to ourselves to at least ask these difficult questions.