HOTELS: It’s 2024, when will “Women in Hospitality” features cease being written because the industry has reached a point where sex doesn’t matter?

Laura Fuentes, chief human resources officer, Hilton: There is always more work to be done when it comes to bias and stereotypes. It’s important to remember that all humans want the same fundamental things in life, regardless of age, gender, geography or background. We all want to feel a part of something, to learn, to know we matter, to care for our loved ones or to achieve major milestones and goals. For women, it’s important for all of us to be able to see ourselves working for a company that allows us to be our full, authentic selves. With time, we will continue to see more improvements, but I would also argue that spotlights or opportunities that highlight women and elevate their voices, create channels for women and other groups to see what they can achieve.

Agnès Roquefort, chief development officer, Accor: Features like this continue to be important, allowing us to highlight the success stories of women in leadership roles, to inspire others and demonstrate the value of diverse perspectives in driving innovation and growth. The idea that these types of features would become obsolete would mean that the industry has evolved to a point where gender disparity is not part of the conversation. One piece of advice is to seek out companies aligned with your personal beliefs and core values. Throughout any career, inevitably, there will be some challenges, but a company that supports your values will also support your empowerment and elevate your professional path.

Arlie Sisson, SVP, global head of digital, Hyatt Hotels Corp.: In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need “Women in Hospitality” features at all because gender inequity wouldn’t exist. Each day, women are shaping our industry for the better; their diverse stories and perspectives should continue to be shared and shouted from the rooftops.

Janine Williams, founder & CEO, Impulsify: This is a big one for me. There is so much focus on women-led panels at industry events and every March to give a voice with all good intent, but I can tell you this: Despite building one of the coolest guest-facing technology solutions in the industry, I am still usually only approached to speak on panels or contribute to articles that focus on what it’s like to be a woman in a male-led industry. It is beyond rare that anyone asks for my input on the integration challenges new technologies face trying to interface with legacy PMS systems or how we are tackling unattended retail sales of alcohol from an age verification and TIPS compliance standpoint. That’s super frustrating.

Jennifer Rausch, chief people officer, Sonesta: I hope “Women in Hospitality” features never go away! The dialogue should continue to shift from hiring women, to promoting women, to celebrating what women bring to the table. Women represent a huge number of our guests and decision-makers; having that voice present while organizational decisions are made is important to the health of a hospitality company.

Jennifer Hiblum, GM, Arlo Wynwood: I’m eagerly anticipating the day when “Women in Hospitality” features become as outdated as dial-up internet! While we’ve come a long way, we’re not quite ready to retire those articles yet, but we are on the fast track to a future where your gender won’t even raise an eyebrow when it comes to running a hotel. Until then, we must keep shaking up the status quo and making strides toward a world where talent, not gender, reigns supreme in hospitality.

Julie Richter, CFO, Concord Hospitality: Articles about women in hospitality will stop being written when the recognition is made that the inequality is really about work-life balance. Historically, women have handled more of the “life” (think June Cleaver) tasks and responsibilities, while men handled the “work” (think Ward). Life issues require absences from work, whether it’s two hours for a doctor’s appointment, or six to eight weeks for maternity leave. With more fathers/partners sharing those responsibilities, and being granted paternity leave, the missing time is becoming less of an implied lack of dedication to career.

Julienne Smith, chief development officer, Americas, IHG: Many of us envision a future where gender or ethnicity cease to be defining factors and we can focus on celebrating achievements based on merit rather than personal identity. It would be great one day to have a company made up of a diverse mix of leaders and associates making hiring decisions and f inding the best person for a role from an equally diverse slate of candidates. I personally prefer not to think about my gender or label myself as a “woman in business,” but instead focus on the business.

Lisa Lombardo, president, ARK Holdings Group: For me, it will always be more about what makes us the same than what makes us different. Throughout history, differences have led to barriers to entry for opportunities. Admittedly, I have recently had a shift in mindset on the question of when do these features cease. I went from “my goodness I am ready for this to no longer be a topic of conversation” to considering that if we stop, history could repeat itself. And that can’t happen. I was recently on an all-female panel about the state of lending at a conference. It was a women’s panel. It was promoted as a women’s panel and promoted as women discussing the current state of lending—and it wasn’t at a “women’s” conference! That’s our next step in this movement.

Liz Uber, COO, Extended Stay America: Women leaders should be encouraged to attend industry conferences and invited to participate in panel discussions across all topics, showing their expertise in their f ield, not just the sessions about women in hospitality. The visibility of women engaging in meaningful conversations among the industry’s best is inspiring to others, showing a successful pathway to the top.

Mehvesh Mumtaz Ahmed, VP of social impact, Rosewood Hotel Group: According to the UN, in 140 years. I’m hopeful that hospitality will beat this number by a considerable timeline and that we will cease to talk about gender in closer to 60 years, when we will reach that tipping point where women occupy their rightful share of leadership roles.

Sima Patel, co-founder & CEO, Ridgemont Hospitality: We’re making progress, but the presence of women in C-level positions remains sparse, slowing the process of advancing others up the ladder. As women continue to excel in the industry, the novelty of this narrative will diminish, making way for more pressing issues. I eagerly anticipate that day.

Sophie Richard, asset manager, M&L Hospitality, current president, HAMA Europe: Unfortunately, gender remains a relevant factor, evident in my interactions with various businesses and colleagues. Despite my optimistic outlook, I acknowledge that a change in this paradigm may not occur until the end of this decade. Nevertheless, I am confident that the upcoming generation entering the job market in the coming years will play a central role in fostering the necessary transformation.

By David Eisen