EMPOWERING WOMEN IN HOSPITALITY
The goal: 30% female representation in executive management positions and on boards by 2022.
“The numbers tell us a story about female representation in the hospitality industry in South Africa. Of the 297 companies surveyed, only 4.7% at CFO level are women, 4.5% are chairs, and 19% are executive directors,” says Judi Nwakedi. The research tells us that the more women you employ at an executive level, the more your bottom line reflects positive growth. However, there are still historic, systemic disadvantages in the workplace. Dorcas Dlamini Mbele called on a quote by Melinda Gates, who said “We are sending our daughters into workplaces that are meant for our fathers”, which illustrates how these systemic practises are harmful in modern business life. “We have cracked the glass ceiling, but what can we do to break it?” she mused. Judi felt that women’s empathetic natures are advantageous in the hospitality industry, which is primarily an industry that puts people fi rst.
On the question of South Africa’s potential business advantage over other countries, Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe feels that transformation is the key. “We have emerged from an era where women’s rights were not thought of.
Women are only recognised for their business value because we have spent decades fighting for it. We were historically oppressed, and told that our place was to bear children and work in the home. We know now that our economy needs both men and women in the workforce.
“South Africa is a good example of women’s progress”, Deputy Minister Thabethe continued. “We have a female Minister of Defence!
Where else in the world would you fi nd that? But now we need to see more women in higher positions and sitting on boards.”
“Boards dictate strategy, and board composition is key. Decisions at the board level create change in business”, agreed Judi. “Women at the lower levels of the industry don’t believe that they can rise through the ranks”, said Karen
Terrel-Kramvis. “If you start at a housekeeper level, there is no reason for you to remain in that position for the rest of your life.” The panel agreed on this point and suggested mentorship and careerpath guidance from an early age, with Deputy Minister Thabethe urging business people to take the youth to career expos such as the National Tourism Expo, where they can be exposed to all levels and facets of this broad and exciting industry.
Importantly, the panellists advised men to be supportive of women’s business growth, and for men to be 100% on board with developing female talent. “Companies have to be bolder and publish their gender equality goals, and develop their policies on eliminating gender bias”, said Dorcas. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t see the change.”