Ladies go for hospitality

22 Mar 2011 19:15 | admin newsletter (Administrator)

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Hospitality: a new trend sector for women?
An interview by Alessandra Zocca

Pr. George Ubbelohde - Director of Education and International Development in Brussels Business Institute, College of Hospitality and Tourism Management - was interviewed by Alessandra Zocca (PWI).

PWI – The hospitality industry is characterised by a significant number of women in a range of different positions. Could you please tell me more about whether women are in leading positions? Are there many women board members?

Mr.Ubbelohde –The last several decades has been a period of remarkable change and growth for women in the field. In restaurants, hotels, catering firms, resorts, meetings … and many other venues throughout the events industry, women are becoming much more visible in management roles and other key positions.
Although women have come a long way in the workplace, men continue to hold the most prestigious positions and the majority of board places.
The following facts are very significant for the International Hospitality Industry: “Although 58% of the two million-strong workforce in the UK is female, the numbers plummet at senior levels. The proportion of middle managers is 40%, senior managers 20%.
At board level, the figure is only 6%, compared with about 12% in other industries in the UK. In a customer-focused industry in which 83 per cent of purchasing decisions are made by women, the lack of representation at the top surely does not make good business sense.” (The Times, 19 Oct 2009)
Concerns about how to achieve a sustainable work-life balance, time management, negotiations and conflict resolution skills remain the most important issues women face in their careers. The hospitality sector is particularly demanding because of irregular hours of work and women are disadvantaged in this aspect.

PWI – In your opinion why does the hospitality sector attract women?

Mr. Ubbelohde –The hospitality industry is a “people” business and women have an influence in many day-to-day decisions. Women have a better understanding of certain segments of the industry and this could lend creativity and innovation to the work place.
Different approaches to traditional problems, team dynamics and flexibility are some of the most important elements which attract women to the hospitality sector.

PWI – And from the point of view of succession in companies of the hospitality and tourism industry and looking towards the new generation, does training in the hospitality industry appeal to an increasing and significant number of female students? Can you please provide some statistics?

Mr. Ubbelohde –Indeed, the number of female students pursuing an education in hospitality has increased tremendously in the last few years. Based on my observation in several hotel management schools around Europe, the ratio of female students to male students can be  65% to 35%, in some classes you may have 20 female students versus 2 male students.

PWI – What is a typical career path in this sector?

Mr. Ubbelohde –In the hospitality sector, the career path starts by working in the day to day operations of the company. This is usually a difficult start and also a discouraging element especially for women due to the irregular hours and days. The departments include: Front Office, Food and Beverage, Housekeeping.
Later, when the opportunity arises, mid-management levels such as reservation manager, sales manager …etc. can be achieved.
Reaching mid-management positions may take 5 years and more. The highest turnover in the industry is observed between 3 to 5 years and particularly amongst the women in the workforce.
On average, an upper managerial position can be reached in 7 to 10 years based on the company development scheme, the country, personal development plan and many other factors.
Most females can be found in HR Management, Sales Management and Housekeeping Management.

PWI – Is it true that hospitality is an industry in which it is difficult to get a job, if applicants do not have a strict hotel background? Why is that? Is that likely to change?

Mr. Ubbelohde – The hospitality industry is becoming more and more sophisticated in terms of standards, requirements and objectives, also, it is changing from a service approach to a more profitable business approach.
Hospitality studies, experience and/or a hotelier background is usually required for the first application for mid-managerial positions. However, for the entry level service positions hotelier experience and/or studies may be an asset but not essential.
Being a service industry, open-minded, customer-oriented, flexible employees from different educational and cultural backgrounds with language capabilities have been always valued at all levels.

PWI – How does hospitality education evolve to support students and particularly female students to be ready for jobs in hospitality and tourism?

Mr. Ubbelohde – Hospitality education, on the one hand, should develop the operational expertise that students need to be successful and, on the other hand, enable students to develop the necessary strategic and management skills which will enable them to become talented, effective and successful managers.
Hospitality education programs could make a great contribution by highlighting the existence of barriers and gender issues in the industry. This could be accomplished by developing courses on required skills, and providing more mentors and role models (especially female professionals) for students. There are many implications on curriculum design and industry training for hospitality educators and industry recruiters. Hospitality education plays an important role in preparing future leaders and creating a more equitable environment for women.


Pr. George Ubbelohde has considerable experience with over 15 years work within the international hospitality industry and has assumed diverse managerial positions before joining the education sector. He has mainly worked for the Sheraton Hotel group, but also for Millennium and Dorint hotel groups has worked in several different countries.
In 1998 he joined the education sector and since then he has become the “Director of Education and International Development” in BBI- Brussels Business Institute, College of Hospitality and Tourism Management (*).
He is a CHE- Certified Hospitality Educator and a Faculty Member of Educational Institute of American Hotel & Lodging Association, USA.

In October 2010, George received the Best European Paper Award by UNWTO.TedQual on the theme of: “Encouraging creativity and entrepreneurship among students, while keeping teachers up to date”.

 Contact details:   

Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Brussels Business Institute of Higher Education/College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.


BBI – Brussels Business Institute, College of Hospitality and Tourism Management provides a 3 year Bachelor Degree program and a 2 year Master Degree program applying an accredited curriculum of the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association in USA.
Combining European hospitality traditions and innovative management techniques from the English-speaking world, BBI offers a new study concept to students who wish to begin their careers in international hospitality.
BBI is currently the only institute in Belgium offering hospitality management education in the English language.

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