A leading hotel operations director has warned of the ‘extreme difficulties’ that women face in the hospitality industry, claiming there is still a ‘macho culture’ that exists in the hotel sector.
In a week that marks the 101st International Women’s Day , Vivien Sirotkin - operations director at QHotels - told BigHospitality that, although many businesses have become more open to giving women equal opportunities, there are still many challenges and issues that need addressing.
“There is no question that it’s particularly challenging for any women in the hospitality industry, particularly going down the general management route as I did,” she revealed. “I think a lot of companies are still companies run by quite macho managing directors and chairmen.
“There are still one or two who are quite jovenistic and it must be quite hard for women to progress in those organisations. One of the reasons I think women often don’t get to the top is because there still is a bit of an old boys’ network occasionally - but I do think it’s becoming a minority.”
Sirotkin made history as the first female manager to run a five-star resort at The Gleneagles Hotel and also ran the first five-AA-Red-Star hotel outside of London in Cliveden. She has more recently been the figurehead for a government-backed initiative which aims to allow more female business managers into training.
She went on to reveal that one of the toughest challenges for women in hospitality is the 'balancing act' between career and family.
“In an industry that’s 24/7, trying to manage family commitments is extremely hard. People question your career orientation when you appear to put family commitments first.
“When I had a child and he went to school, my mobility and ability to go anywhere for the right opportunity became more difficult. However, the more senior you are in a business, the more easier it is to manage the demands of your home life.
“If you’re a married woman, you have to be exceptional to be able to manage your family alongside the hotel.”
Top tips for women in hospitality
Vivian has lectured at Oxford Brooks University in her spare time, helping students and young industry hopefuls gain a real understanding of the sector. She gave the following top tips for women in hospitality wishing to further their career:
- Undergo some confidence and assertiveness training. "A lot of junior and even senior female managers lack confidence, particularly in a man’s world as the move up the ladder."
- Work on your emotional intelligence. "To get on in your career you have to learn how to manage up and impress at a lot of levels; emotional intelligence training will allow you to do that much more easily."
- Make sure you have a great home support network. "If you move a lot it takes a while to establish good friends. But you do need support from your partner and your friends to help you juggle everything."
- Look out for good mentors. "The people who were mentors for me were not women but they were great people when it came to helping with my career decisions."
- Network heavily. "You want similar level women around the business, so put yourself around and build your network up."
- Choose the right company. "Before taking on any new role, research the company. Avoid those ones that maybe still are male machismo. Look and see if there are any senior women in the company."
Vivien Sirotkin also featured in BigHospitalty’s Pearls of Wisdom feature this week. To read more about her views on life, her career and the hospitality industry, click here.