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Leading Hotelieres to tackle lack of female leadership roles

A new initiative formed by some of the world’s leading hoteliers and hospitality academics is hoping to address the lack of women in senior female leadership roles across the hospitality sector worldwide.


Leading Hotelieres is a pioneering awareness programme that aims to accelerate the path to improved gender equality in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5.


Spearheaded by Lindsey Ueberroth, chief executive of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, and Frank Pfaller, chief executive and president of the HoteliersGuild community, Leading Hotelieres said it will aim to provide guidance, mentorship and training through a “powerful network of contacts in the industry”.


The focus of 2021 will be specifically geared towards flexible working structures, a move which could enable more women to rise through the ranks.


“I’m happy to see more women CEOs in hospitality, but we are still a far cry from where I hope we can be in terms of representation,” said Ueberroth.


“The biggest challenges for women looking to achieve top leadership roles were the need to travel, relocate and dedicate long hours. In the past, once having children and raising a family came into the equation, many women were forced to make a choice, and those challenges were hard to overcome.


“Given the innovations in technology and a more open attitude towards flexible working hours and “home offices,” many of these hurdles seem alleviated.”


Xenia zu Hohenlohe, founding partner of Considerate Group, will lead as chair for the inaugural year joined by co-chair Dr Sowon Kim, associate professor of management at Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL).


“Gender equality is a key part of the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and any business serious about future proofing itself will need to address this issue,” said Hohenlohe. “We have an incredible collection of women with highly professional profiles paired with great brainpower in this group, all driven by the motivation to ensure the female hotelier of the future will be able to finally have the same opportunities for career development as their male peers.”


The team has enlisted support from the likes of Valentina de Santis, owner and chief executive of Grand Hotel Tremezzo; leading sustainability architect Yasmine Mahmoudieh; Vicki Tollman, director of Red Carnation Hotels; Dr Tania Bardhan, director of spa at Four Seasons Hong Kong, and Celine Vadam, chief executive of hospitality consultancy WE(i) Think.


Communication for the initiative will be coordinated by Maria Pajares, managing director of UK-based hotel representation company Mason Rose, while the advisory board will also include Sue Harmsworth, founder of ESPA International; professor Dr Henri Kuokkanen, associate professor at Institut Paul Bocuse; and Dr Willy Legrand, professor at IUBH University of Applied Sciences.


“When we looked at our HG membership roster we realised that we had far too few women in leadership positions,” said Pfaller. “Reaching out initially to Lindsey, Xenia and Sowon, we were thrilled to realise their enthusiasm to join our cause to making a real change.”

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