Pink Power: Why hospitality players could do with more women as decision-makers in the boardroom?--Nidhi Sharma

Nidhi Sharma is the former Head of The Leela Connoisseur Club, The Leela Hotel, TLC Group


People close to me often ask, “what is it like to be a woman leader in the hospitality space?” 

I don’t usually have a convincing answer and end up talking about how it’s ‘nice only’, or that it’s ‘good and getting better’, or that it’s empowering. I fall back to these generic statements because I haven’t really thought about my identity as a woman being any different to my role as a leader. 

And yet, the question has persisted, so it is only fair that I reflect on my experiences to understand: what do women bring to the table, especially in a sector as people-oriented as hospitality?

View from the summit

Having been a part of the Indian hospitality industry for almost two decades, I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to examine the enormous disruptions taking place up close. The most visible and exciting of them is the transformation of the tourism and hospitality space from being a male-dominated stronghold to becoming more welcoming to women across all verticals and functions. 

Studies show that the hospitality industry is now one of the largest employers of female professionals across various cities in India. Women have gone from being an underpaid, neglected, under-utilised and under-represented community to overcoming all odds to occupy leadership positions and excelling at it.

What makes women the go-to choice of hospitality employers and vice versa

According to pre-Covid estimations by Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals, gender equality in the workplace could unlocking over $12 trillion in new market value linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals). Even if only a half of the Indian women were to join the labour force alongside men, the country’s annual economic growth would surge by 1.5 percentage points. 

I’ve seen the truth of these projections bear out in the hospitality industry, where the results speak for themselves. In my experience, women bring a range of operational efficiencies necessary for running a hospitality chain or standalone projects. Patience is a key asset – and our society’s lamentably patriarchal bent means most women have this particular virtue in abundance. 

As far as I can tell, and industry reports support this observation, women also tend to score higher in productivity and loyalty indices than their male counterparts. That is not to say that men are less competent. However, statistically, women more prominently exhibit the calculative and strategic long-term mindset that plays a pivotal role in growing a business than men. Further, female managers and leaders routinely perform better at engaging their employees, investors, and customers. Call it a quip, but this instance is indeed an exception when conventional patriarchal codes, for a change, have resulted in a favourable outcome for women.

I also strongly advocate the presence of women across all levels, be it as freshers or in the boardroom. Why? Because gender diversity ensures that important concerns such as employee safety, flexibility in working hours, a pleasant work environment, etc. are given their due attention. The growing influence of women in business strategy is reflected in the stern in-house initiatives being taken by the management teams at top hotels, such as cab drops for female employees working late shifts, flexible timings, and maternity benefits, among others.

There is one more point that I would like to add: the inclusion of women into the workforce is not and should not be a matter of lip-service alone. It has shown to yield tangible benefits across all levels, from individual to the corporate and even to the national and international. The time is nigh for both public and private players to attempt to incorporate the findings in their business strategies in a pandemic-hit market landscape. The aforementioned studies highlighted how gender diversity can boost economic progress in the pre-Covid ecosystem. We can apply the same principle now to not only awaken and stimulate economic activity but also to drive the nation towards a progressive, prosperous future.

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hospitality the leela Nidhi Sharma TLC Group

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