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Leisure industry faces gender imbalance

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SINGAPORE, 24 February 2023: New research on publicly listed companies revealed that the leisure industry faces a major diversity disparity, with only 7% of the top spots held by women, a stark contrast to the 50-50 gender balance of the overall workforce.

The first report of the series, “The numbers behind women in leadership: Leisure”, which was carried out by private advisory firm Aptamind Partners and is supported by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), drew on publicly available data from the world’s largest hotel groups, casinos and entertainment companies, shows that the gender gap widens the higher up the career ladder you climb.

From a 50% overall balance across the leisure industry’s workforce, the percentage of women drops to 42% in mid-level management and 33% in senior management.

The casino and entertainment industry outshines hotels with three female CEOs and four female chairs.

A marginal improvement in the percentage of female executives in the hotel sector has failed to translate into more women in leadership and senior roles. Alison Brittain, the sole female representative in the CEO group at the time of this report, left her position in January 2023, leaving major PLC hotel chains with zero women holding the top CEO and chair spots.

However, the report shows that change is possible and can be clearly seen in the percentage of women on the boards of leisure companies, which has grown from 17% in 2007 to 28% in 2022.

More recently, the number of female chairs of the boards of casino and entertainment companies has grown from 6% to 12% between 2019 and 2021 ‒ and the number of female CEOs in that group increased from 3% to 9% over the same period.

Aptamind Partners CEO  and author of the report, Aradhana Khowala says: “While some progress has been made in the last two years, there is still a vast amount of work to be done. We need a wholesale shift in how we think about gender and leadership. And we need to go beyond well-meaning initiatives and box-ticking exercises and start taking concrete steps to redress the current imbalance.

“One of the major barriers to improving gender diversity is the lack of insightful and robust data in the public domain. We cannot wait any longer for the arc of history to bend the right way on its own. We need to benchmark where we are to push forward together with concerted, collective action.”

WTTC president & CEO Julia Simpson added: “This issue goes beyond equity and fairness. Companies need to hold themselves accountable to guarantee progress is made over time. Putting women on the centre stage of Travel & Tourism will ensure a better future for the sector.”

The report offers six steps the leisure industry can take to get more women into leadership positions, including better disclosure and regular reporting, independent regulation and verification, and incentivising and holding leadership accountable for progress on gender diversity.

The report is the first of a series of four publications which analyse the female presence at high-level roles within different Travel & Tourism industries, such as leisure, aviation, cruise and OTAs, and food and beverage.

To access the report, please click here

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