Why is there still a lack of female hotel GMs?

Can women make it to the top in the hotel industry? That’s easy — the answer is YES. How do they get there? Ah, now that’s a tough question.

I’ve learned a lot in my 28 years of experience climbing the career ladder to become general manager of Dukes St. James, London.

Let’s start with brass tacks. Women have to work hard in the hospitality industry, and many I know tell me that they work harder than their male colleagues — the better to shine on the job. But shining is key, I think, as historically men have occupied the upper rungs of the hotel industry. (Think of the innkeeper of old, glad-handling and greeting guests while his wife made her contributions off the hotel floor.) Indeed, I can’t recall meeting a single female general manager when I first started out in the industry.

Times have luckily changed since then. But despite accounting for nearly 60% of the current hotel workforce, women remain under-represented in most senior and leadership roles and account for but a sliver of general managers.

That’s too bad, because the industry benefits mightily from their efforts. Diverse management generates a richness and quality of ideas that is lacking in any all-male environment. The result? Better-managed hotels that are not only capable of making informed decisions but possess greater understanding of the needs of customers and employees.

There is no sugarcoating the hard work of hospitality for women, however. Wouldn’t it be nice if everything was laid out on a plate and the table was cleared by 5 p.m.? Alas, that’s not how hotels work. I tell women with eyes on upper management that they must be flexible — particularly on nights and weekends, which are often the busiest times for hotels — as well as be prepared to sacrifice and ready to travel.

Is it worth it? I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel bad about the school plays, carol concerts and sports games I have missed over my career. But with the help of a wonderful nanny, my children have grown and blossomed, and today we are the best of friends. At the same time, my career is extraordinarily fulfilling; I love coming to work every day and wouldn’t change a thing.

So, yes, it’s worth it!