By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Last month, I committed HSMAI to the fight for diversity, inclusion, and antiracism in the hospitality industry. A new report from Castell Project — a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to see women in more than one of every three positions at all levels of hospitality industry leadership and ownership” — shows just how much work we have to do. According to Black Representation in Hospitality Industry Leadership 2020, while 18.8 percent of people working in hospitality are Black, just 1.5 percent of hospitality professionals in director positions or higher at the corporate/above-property level are Black. And the numbers get worse the farther up you go, with Black hospitality professionals representing just 0.9 percent of CEOs and 0.7 percent of c-suite positions.
Castell’s Peggy Berg broke things down for me further, tabulating the numbers for sales, marketing, and revenue optimization. Again, it’s grim. Among the 630 hotel companies that Castell reviewed, only 2.1 percent of all sales and marketing professionals at the corporate/above-property level are Black; 0.3 percent working at the director level or above are Black. Similarly, 3.4 percent of all revenue optimization professionals are Black, while 1.7 percent working at the director level or above are Black.
SOURCE: Castell Project
Of course, understanding the scope of a problem is one of the first steps toward solving it. From there comes the ability to identify possible solutions. For that, as HSMAI often does when we’re facing a daunting challenge, we first turned to our expert communities. Over the course of two weeks in June and July, we presented six virtual Executive Roundtable programs for chief sales, marketing, revenue, and digital officers working for brands and hotel management companies — with a total of 69 executives from 54 different hospitality companies participating. (We’ll be hosting a seventh roundtable, for chief loyalty officers, on July 16.)
As part of each program, we asked participants this open-ended question: What can we as an industry do to increase diversity and representation among hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue professionals at all levels? We received a variety of answers, some tactical, some strategic, some philosophical, but all approaching this issue with the seriousness it deserves. Here are some that stood out to me:
- Seek out diversity in our boards and chapters.
- Working with traditionally Black universities/colleges on hospitality scholarships.
- Partner with Black-owned businesses in hospitality and vendors in hospitality.
- Educational and leadership programs in our specific fields.
- Create road to corporate from hotel operations.
- Extend the reach of recruiting — more strategic talent acquisition approaches.
- Mentor from other areas in hotels.
- Continue to listen but also ask questions.
- Stop looking for those that are like us to join our teams.
- Starts with CEO commitment.
In last month’s column, I noted that the HSMAI Foundation is well suited to participate in this process in a meaningful way, and these and other insights from our Executive Roundtable communities make me even more convinced of that. Embracing diversity and inclusion is about not just providing opportunities but also eliminating barriers; with its mission of attracting, developing, and engaging talent in the hospitality industry, the Foundation can do both.
The conversation goes on, and HSMAI is listening and asking questions. We know our community is ready for some answers.