Closing Hospitality’s Lingering Gender Pay Gap

Despite efforts to close the gender pay gap, a recent survey suggests that if advances continue at the current rate, it will still take about 20 years before pay equality is reached.

The WiH2020 (women in hospitality) survey found that progress has been slow—a 0.4 percent annual decrease in the pay gap across hospitality, travel and leisure (HTL) with the difference in average salaries for men still 7.6 percent higher than the average for women. That number is still lower than the overall gender pay gap in the larger economy, which according to the U.S. Census Bureau is 19.3 percent. The survey of 10,442 companies, created in collaboration with PwC, WiH2020 and UKHospitality, found that men still hold most of the top jobs in the industry.

Raising the Bar

The pressure is on to show year-on-year improvements and that promises are being met, as most survey participants see gender pay reporting as a three- to five-year journey. Additionally, ethnicity pay-gap reporting will soon become mandatory to further highlight the lack of diversity within high-paying positions.

“Being transparent about our data was a positive move for us. It was the catalyst for change and triggered a very open and productive conversation about the actions we were taking and what actions we needed to take,” said Nikki Humphrey, senior vice president for People of Virgin Atlantic, which has an initiative to establish 12 percent minority representation by 2022.

What’s Been Done?

In addition to reporting gender pay-gaps, a focus on unconscious bias training, gender pay forums and flexible working polices are other ways HTL companies are working to close the gap.

In September 2018, Caesars Entertainment reported that 99 percent of women at the company’s corporate headquarters and 98 percent of women working in nonunion roles at the company’s domestic properties had “no meaningful differences in average pay when compared to men in the same positions.” These results were released as part of its Gender Equity Initiative, which was launched in 2017 in collaboration with Billie Jean King and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative.

Caesars Entertainment has pledged to achieve equal gender representation in management roles by 2025 and review pay equity on a regular basis.

Why is Gender Equity Important?

There are still limited options available for women in HTL, and many take lower-paying jobs to allow for greater flexibility in working hours, which leaves little room for career progression.

Diversity and inclusion are also needed as strategic priorities to close the gender pay gap. According to WiH2020 Review, diverse and inclusive businesses are gaining in motivation, innovation, talent appeal and customer reputation. Leadership within each business must reflect the diverse makeup of the staff and customers, though; without this, businesses are likely to miss out on vital employee and customer understanding, causing their performance to suffer.

Equity Action Plan

WiH outlined these six key foundations to facilitate real change.

  1. Alignment with business strategy: Articulate how promoting diversity and inclusion supports specific business priorities, such as strengthening customer satisfaction and attracting hard-to-secure talent.
  2. Clear direction, ownership and tone from the top: Executive teams set the tone for the business, and ensure that diversity and inclusion are recognized as priorities. This needs to be more than a statement of intent. It can be supported by turning diversity and inclusion metrics into individual performance objectives and incentives as part of a business-wide accountability framework.
  3. Set realistic objectives: It’s important to identify top-priority diversity and inclusion objectives that address a business’s shortcomings. Strengthening the well-being of your workforce, changing attitudes about mental health, improving the experience of women, and increasing the representation of people from minority groups in senior and technical positions are some objectives to consider.
  4. Turn objectives into an action plan for delivery: Top priority objectives set the direction and help shape values within a business. It’s important to translate these objectives into an action plan that establishes measurable goals and how they’ll be achieved.
  5. Measure progress: Data, analytics and tracking to gauge progress, as well as targeting intervention and driving accountability, will help support the action plan—because what gets measured gets done.
  6. Tell it how it is: Instead of just promoting initiatives and strengths, reporting should also focus on plans for addressing a business’s shortcomings and communicating progress over time. Acknowledging deficiencies can create opportunities by setting out plans for accelerating progress.
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