Although many women begin their professional careers in the hospitality industry, few remain in the industry long enough to reach the top. Two new reports from the Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) document the careers of twenty women who are industry leaders and propose a mechanism for increasing women's rate of advancement to and participation in hospitality C-suites.
The reports, "Female Executives in Hospitality: Reflections on Career Journeys and Reaching the Top," and "Developing High-Level Leaders in Hospitality: Advice for Retaining Female Talent," by Kate Walsh, Susan S. Fleming, and Cathy A. Enz, are available at no charge from the CHR.
As part of a study sponsored by Carlson-Rezidor, Walsh, Fleming, and Enz, all of whom are members of the faculty of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, interviewed twenty women who are hospitality industry leaders—twelve corporate leaders and eight entrepreneurs. The researchers first examined how these twenty women achieved their industry success, and then developed a framework for companies interested in advancing more women and taking advantage of this talent pool.
"These are twenty exceptional women with an amazing level of personal drive," said Walsh, an associate professor of management and organizational behavior. "Based on their interview comments, our analysis highlighted the importance of networking, finding a sponsor, and taking thoughtful risks, including assignments that don't seem directly connected to their current career path. The key to balancing work and family responsibilities involved work autonomy, including flexibility and control, together with a strong support network, which usually included a life partner."
"We must note that eight of these twenty successful women left their corporate positions to become entrepreneurs. They accepted the increased pressure and responsibilities from their choice, because they considered that gaining control of their careers made the effort worthwhile and the experience meaningful," added Fleming, a senior lecturer of management and organizational behavior. "Our study indicates that hospitality organizations would do well to retain some of this talent, and in our report we suggest that one way to help this happen is for top leaders to make a deep commitment to such policies as purposeful long-term career development that provides a sightline to the top."
"Our goal is to strengthen the hospitality industry's situation as well as that of women," said Enz, the Lewis G. Schaeneman, Jr. Professor of Innovation and Dynamic Management and a professor in strategy. "Strategically, it makes sense to advance the most talented people in an organization, regardless of gender. Research has shown that companies do better financially when women are well represented in top leadership positions. Our study found that the mid-career time seems to be most critical for retaining talent. The chances of holding on to top talent are improved if firms develop appropriate policies and design infrastructures of support to assist these mid-career professionals."
About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the center's corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit www.chr.cornell.edu.
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