Is Hospitality Ahead of The Game When it Comes to Gender Equality?

It’s something I’ve been pondering upon for some time now: it’s no secret that gender equality is being debated across many mainstream medias, but i’m sat here thinking: “Hospitality isn’t that bad though, right?”

Now before I really start to explore this: I know that there are issues that will be brought up because I am a male writing this,  just as I know the usual responses that would be given if I were to be a female and write this. I’m also aware that I am in no way shape or form the first person to discuss the subject about equality within hospitality.

It’s a subject that requires more than my usual hap hazard and somewhat ham fisted approach to subjects – albeit it’s never my intention to be ham fisted.

Let’s talk.

For starters: I’ve worked for more female managers and General Managers than I have male. I was initially trained by a woman all of seven or eight years ago. I then had a female supervisor in my next bar job, and then after that I was fully trained in cocktailness by a woman, who in turn answered to a woman. One of Manchester’s most respected bartenders is female and there are a fair few independent businesses that are owned or at least co-owned by females.

There are a lot of powerful and respected females within the hospitality industry, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) reported that at least 60% of hospitality staff are female and the same association reports that at least 89% of food and service management firms have at least one female on their board.  H/T

Is all of this enough to suggest that equality amongst hospitality is prevalent?

The words: Nope. Nope. Nope. Come to mind.

Taking a deeper look into the industry; one thing that I was interested in, first of all, was if a pay gap was prevalent and noticeable? Do females receive a lower wage than their male counterparts? Personally, I’ve never been made aware of or even witnessed a man being paid more than a woman per hour for doing the same job within hospitality. It’s very much an issue of “you are paid our set hourly rate.”

In 2014 it was reported that on average, males within the industry take home £18,497 p/a, whilst women take home £15,665 p/a. That’s a considerable difference of 18% between the two sexes. Part of this reason is that more women are on zero hour contracts than men, and that significantly affects the results, but it’s still a considerable difference and can not and should not be explained away by one factor.

Salaries are playing a huge part in the gender pay gap. I digress however, as this isn’t a lecture on what is and isn’t a pay gap and what constitutes them.

I’ve spoken to women in the industry and asked them if they felt like their gender held them back or progressed them in any way that seemed obvious. I found that a lot of women class their physical looks as being a make or break situation when it comes to being successful in the industry. Women have told me that being attractive has helped them progress in their job, while others have said that because they are attractive, they have had to work even harder to be taken seriously.

Physical looks are never something that someone should be judged on – a lot of places will look through Facebook pictures in order to determine if someone is attractive enough to even be offered an interview. Obviously people will argue that everyone has to take into account that it is the company they are representing on a face level… that is society’s problem just as much as it is hospitality’s but it doesn’t mean it should be acceptable and treated as common practice.

Adapting to a male sense of humour also seems to be a must-have skill set. Accepting that the kinds of jokes that men make to their female counterparts such as: “You should smile more, you’ll look prettier,” are part and parcel of the job, seems to be vital in “getting through.” If you don’t accept this, there’s a large chance that you’ll be alienated. Sexual harassment in the work place is rife. I don’t think that any female can’t think of at least one person who walks behind them in the workplace and places their hands a little bit too low, or squeezes something a little bit too hard.

Not having opinions treated with as much authority as a male counterpart is also a very common issue. A lot of women are finding that they must strive harder to have their opinion taken seriously or are finding that their opinion is providing nothing more than a quirky anecdote. I’ve witnessed people looking down on women just because they are female. Discrediting their knowledge and views and trying hard to implement their own. Loudly proclaiming that drinks aren’t nice and they wish a man had made them.

There is the underlying issue that the hospitality industry is extremely male dominated, despite the fact that the statistics say there are 20% less males than females. Why is this then? Why do almost all of the women I’ve spoken to tell me that the industry is just one big sausage fest showing no signs of slowing down if the statistics say that there are more women?

I did a bit of digging and I found that despite the industry being 60% female and 40% male – less than 40% of women hold managerial positions, less than 20% of women hold a general management position and between 5-8% hold a position on the board. I drew this up to help me understand the significance of this:

There are 1000 people in our team.
600 of them are female.
400 of them are male.
There are 10 jobs available on the board.
There are 100 GM jobs available.
There are 200 managerial jobs available.

0-1 out of 10 jobs on the board go to women.
19 out of 100 GM jobs go to women.
79 out of 200 Managerial jobs go to women.

98-99 women out of 600 are chosen to be in more senior positions. – That’s less than 20%

211-212 men out of 400 are chosen to be in more senior positions. – That’s more than 50%

Now, of course this cannot be used as an actual statistic, but in our example here: 32% of ALL senior positions in our team would go to females. No matter what numbers you use, the statistics will always be shockingly low. The BHA may have said that 89% of boards have at least one woman on them, but it’s looking like the majority of that 89% have JUST one woman on them. If you can’t see why that is a shocking statistic, then I cannot do any more for you.

There might be more women in the industry, but there’s a hell of a lot more men in charge of them.

It’s becoming very apparent that the reason I thought hospitality was so amazing when it came to gender equality was because I’m in the middle of a prominently male dominated industry so when I witness a female as a stand out, it’s such a perverse shock that I automatically class it as:There’s the manager, she’s female” rather than: “There’s the manager.” It’s showing me that actually, you shouldn’t be shocked that there is a female in charge, you should be shocked that there aren’t more females in charge. I might have been trained by females, but the response is: why aren’t there more females doing the training? There might be twenty female managers within your vicinity, but there’s going to be a shitload more males telling them what to do.

When I spoke to people about writing this article, every single woman I spoke to told me that hospitality is very much archaic when it comes to having equality. Every man I spoke to failed to even recognise there was an issue and acted shocked when I said there was very much a huge fucking issue.

This is the problem. Men don’t think there are any issues. Women know there are – it will always be passed off as “Oh, just feminism gone mad isn’t it? They don’t have it that bad.”  

If you’re struggling to see what is happening here, or are viewing it as “when women get as good as the men, they will be paid the same” then take two steps back and sit on the floor. Equality is about treating everyone the same, whether that means treating everyone just as shitty as the next person or treating everyone with respect. It’s not about “letting women do what ever they want because they’re being oppressed.” Take gender out of it. Fuck’s sake. 

The fact of the matter is: There is a huge issue when it comes to gender equality within hospitality. 

I can’t sit here and tell you that I have the solution to this issue. I’d be getting paid a lot of money from someone if I had all of the answers to the problems that are brought up. As with most of the issues I talk about, even just getting people to discuss what is happening is a victory, rather than just accepting:

“Nothing to see here. If you’ve got nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all.”

It needs to be looked at. It needs to be brought into the spotlight. More people need to actually be aware that there is a problem right now in this industry that we love. Not having the direct answer is the reason why discussions are evoked – to find the answer, let’s try and find the answer.


Main IMG: flikrSam Howzit

2 Comments Add yours

  1. ajaynew says:

    Great work! I have been asking these questions for a while! What a shame! Did you get an opportunity to look at how customers tip? I have experienced sexism with this, with the idea that woman are better at serving and men are better on bars and tips reflect this? Just an idea. I think the whole idea is tired, many restaurants still want pretty girls entertaining or hosting tables and not in the kitchen. It’s a tiring idea of men and women’s roles within society, I guess it will be in every industry until it changes socially. Thanks anyway! Great piece

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