Breaking Barriers: Women in Hospitality

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5 min read

Mar 30, 2023

Breaking Barriers: Women in Hospitality

On March 16th we kicked off our new multi-city community event, Pass the Bread, which is a networking and educational series addressing important issues facing the hospitality industry.

We hosted an intimate dinner in London with women in hospitality as a way to give female hospitality leaders a space to discuss issues in the workplace, share advice, build meaningful relationships and provide guidance on how to succeed and push for change in the hospitality industry. Our panelists spoke to a variety of topics ranging from mental health, mentorship, hospitality culture, professional development and gender bias. Here are some key takeaways coming out of that conversation.

Setting Boundaries 

We asked attendees, how many of you have ever said yes to something you didn’t want to do, either professionally or personally? Everyone raised their hand. 

We then asked – How many of you have said yes to something within the last week?

Yet again, everyone’s hand raised. 

So why is it so hard for women to set boundaries in the workplace? Is it because if we say no to something, we could be passed up for a promotion? Or that we don’t want to feel rejection or conflict? Both could be true, but as women, we are generally raised to be people pleasers. We’d rather put more on our plate than advocate for ourselves, especially in spaces where the culture doesn’t allow us to set healthy boundaries. 

The culture in hospitality has traditionally rewarded breaking boundaries – you worked 48 hrs this week? Well I worked 57! You left at midnight? I was here until 2am! It’s rooted in machismo and self sacrifice. 

“Women that were unwilling to violate healthy boundaries are often seen as difficult and unwilling to be team players”, said Rachel Kerr – Lapsley, Managing Director of Kelly’s Cause.“When we showed a willingness to accept anything and everything the job demanded we were rewarded with encouragement and promotion.”

We know that at the cost of not fitting into this culture, there are also ramifications on our safety. Boundarylessness is not only essential to our ability to succeed but also guarantees us our safety in those spaces. So how does one start the boundary setting process? Assess your personal boundaries and what you need, communicate those boundaries upfront, and create clear structures that can help avoid boundary disruptions.   

Advocating for Mental Health

The demanding nature of the hospitality industry can have a significant impact on mental health. But historically, the industry hasn’t done enough to support employees’ mental well-being. According to a recent survey, 100% of hospitality employees responded they don’t receive enough mental health support at work. 

But what does investing in support look like? Having people on your team who are specifically trained in Mental Health First Aid skills is essential. It’s also important to open up an active dialogue around mental health. Staff surveys can be effective in understanding what type of support your employees would find beneficial. Operators have to acknowledge that to create psychological safety, the needs of their team should be prioritized over profit, particularly in cases of customer harassment. 

Rachel Kerr – Lapsley shared these three steps for ways to create psychological safety in the workplace.

  1. Listen to your teams carefully.
  2. Have a system for feedback for all types of employees.
  3. Have a solid Mental Health policy that is adhered to make a significant difference in the mental welfare of your business

Importance of Building A Community of Women

Having a network of women can be incredibly valuable in helping one succeed in their position. Hospitality is a notoriously challenging industry, with long hours and a high level of stress. Building a network of other women in the field establishes a safe place for sharing advice and providing support. 

Women can also benefit from mentorship as part of their professional and personal development. Mentorship is an invaluable resource for providing guidance, support and valuable connections. 

Hannah Berry, Director of Marketing, PR & Communications at The Wolseley Hospitality Group, shared with us that through building a network of women, she has been lucky enough to have met amazing people who became real mentors and sounding boards in her career. “I also have a small network of other marketeers”, said Hannah. ”We meet for dinner as friends but also communicate if we’re looking for recommendations for a service we’re looking to outsource, a role we’re trying to fill, we all help each other!”

Looking for ways to connect with women in hospitality? Check out networking groups like Women in Business Network, Women in Tourism, or The Female Hospitality Network!

The Importance of Advocacy

Not only is it important to have a community of women outside the workplace, but it’s equally important, if not more, to have women in the workplace who act as an advocate for others. 

Advocating for other women in the workplace is crucial in achieving gender equality and creating a more inclusive work environment. Women who advocate for each other can provide support, mentorship and networking opportunities, which ultimately leads to career advancement opportunities. When women advocate for each other, it helps to bring awareness to issues they could potentially face in the workplace. 

Women in hospitality have the power to shape the industry through their collective efforts in supporting one another, setting boundaries and advocating for change. By working together and speaking up, women can create a more empowering, inclusive and equitable industry for all. Let us continue to celebrate and support women in hospitality, creating a more inclusive and diverse industry for all.

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