Van Ooteghem, who joined Accor as a receptionist 27 years ago and now heads up the three Ibis brands in the UK and Ireland, told BigHospitality her staff are paid for their ability, not according to their gender.
“If you are a general manager with Ibis, what you are paid is based on experience, the size of the hotel and how difficult it is to run, but never on gender. This is something that is very important and close to my heart. Equal pay is not an issue in Ibis UK and Ireland,” she said.
Van Ooteghem was speaking to BigHospitality on Equal Pay Day, which highlights that because there is a 14.2 per cent pay differential between men and women, from today until the end of the year women are effectively working for free.
The hotel professional and mother-of-one said the company she worked for was hoping to be a ‘front-runner’ in the battle for equality in hospitality with a number of initiatives already in place to address the gender balance and empower women.
Last year Accor introduced the Women at Accor Generation programme which aims to give female staff members help and support early on in their careers to achieve their goals.
Each woman accepted onto the programme is given a mentor (male or female) who spends two months mentoring and training them.
“We really aim to empower women and let them see that everything is possible and that they can achieve what they want to achieve,” she said.
“This year we had 20 candidates and in 2016 we will almost double that number. We have a very good response. It is important for those young women who join to be encouraged to grow and see how they can do that.”
Accor is also the only hospitality company to have joined the HeforShe movement, an international solidarity movement for gender equality initiated by UN Women.
Through the intiative Accor has pledged that at least 35 per cent of its hotel managers will be female by 2017 and has committed to reduce the pay gap between men and women at the Paris head office and in three other countries.
Van Ooteghem said: “Accor joining the HeforShe movement is very telling. We are the only hospitality company on it and are trying to change the mentality in the hotel sector.
“I think there are quite a lot of hospitality companies out there where there needs to be a better balance between men and women. Many are still very male-dominated. I hope Accor can be a front-runner in making that change.”
Van Ooteghem said it was vital that hospitality businesses had strong female role models in place so women could see that they had options for progression. She also said it was possible, in the hotel sector, for women to have both a family and a career.
"I was a general manager when I decided to have children and I now have an 11-year-old daughter. When you have children you put your career a bit on hold and question whether you’ll be able to continue, whereas in reality there’s no reason why you couldn’t it’s just a question of maybe balancing it differently. In hospitality you can combine both. As a young woman you’re not really convinced about that so it’s good to have those role models who say yes you can."