Despite making up roughly 60 percent of the hospitality workforce, inequality still runs rampant for many women in travel and tourism. Although easily claiming roles as travel agents, tour operators and meeting and event planners, the glass ceiling becomes increasingly visible at the managerial level, a statistic that Accor is doing its part to change.
Considered part of a larger sustainable development initiative, the hotel group is striving for a 50/50 women-to-men ratio of hotel managers across all brands worldwide. It’s a bold ambition at a time when current projections on workplace equality place female managers across all industries somewhere around 20 percent. Sophie Stabile, Accor’s global chief financial officer, says adding more women to the mix is not only good business it’s sustainable business.
“We know that more women graduate from top universities than men, yet they hold fewer positions of responsibility in companies—diverse teams are more innovative and efficient.” Accor’s only female COO in Europe, Caro van Eekelen, adds the idea that diversity isn’t limited to gender. “A team made up of people of different ages can have combined benefits. For example, the younger generation may have a better command of new technologies and the older generation could have a better understanding of a well-anchored corporate culture.”
Stabile spearheads Women at Accor Generation, a network that fosters mentoring, training, idea sharing and the overall empowerment of women seeking managerial positions. Since launching in 2012, the network has gained 2,500 members, male and female, across five continents. Nine leaders in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, North America, Latin America, Southern Europe, Northern, Eastern and Central Europe, and France develop initiatives that are tailored to local issues. As the fight against stereotypes is often a universal obstacle for career-driven women, Stabile says the construct of the network is really about helping women see their own worth, or “to give them confidence in their potential” beyond these social and cultural “norms.”
Accor’s signing of the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) is one case in point. As an initiative of UN Women and the United Nations Global Compact, the WEPs define seven touch points that foster the empowerment of women in the workplace, the marketplace and the community. In case you’re wondering, the idea of elevating women into managerial positions and beyond is principle No. 1. Beyond this, however, is a guide that really testifies to the need for the dismantling of stereotypes—going beyond ideas of “male” and “female” into a realm of “human” and the overall reassessment of gender roles as they relate to gender disparity.
The principles call for nondiscrimination and equality among men and women. They also call for accountability—all members must measure and publically report on progress, which for many countries, isn’t always the easiest thing to do. For instance, although possessing one of the world’s earliest constitutional documents guaranteeing social and political equality, religious and personal status laws often challenge this idea in Israel. Still, one mid-sized Israeli fashion company became the first of its kind after voluntarily publicizing a social and environmental responsibility report that reflected its commitment to gender equality.
Eekelen says the primary reason she decided to join the Woman at Accor Generation network, and later become a mentor, was to convey to her female colleagues an idea that she also had to learn: “Women should have no inhibitions about being mothers and working at the same time.” Others, like Julie Gregoire, Accor’s Senior VP for France Luxury and Upscale, hope to deliver another message entirely. Gregoire’s move to adapt the services offered in MGallery hotels to the expectations of female guests led to a 95 percent female customer satisfaction rate. It’s a good sign overall that even as some women continue to struggle with being swept up in the hard-knocks realities of the corporate world, others make it their mission to keep these professionals satisfied.