As the hospitality industry recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilds its workforce, executives are emphasizing the importance of diversity in hiring and prioritizing the advancement of black employees.
According to a press release highlighting data from The Castell Project’s Black Representation in Hospitality Leadership 2021, black employees loss of jobs in the hospitality industry in 2020 and continue to be under-represented “despite statements of support from industry”.
The websites of 801 companies were reviewed and the study found that only 11% of the 7,243 people listed in director positions through the CEO were black, up from 16% in 2019, when 630 companies were reviewed.
“This indicates that advancement is not fair to black employees in the hospitality industry,” the statement said.
After a year of disruption caused by the pandemic and in the midst of a labor crisis, the hospitality industry has an opportunity to rebuild itself with a diverse workforce, said Peggy Berg, president of Project Castell, in the communicated.
“This is a time of remarkable opportunity, as virtually all companies in the hospitality industry are restructuring at the same time. As McKinsey & Company reports, “Diverse companies outperform their industry peers over time, and the penalties are increasing for those who lack diversity.” This is the rare chance for the hospitality industry to open up opportunities for diverse employees and to rebuild itself fairly, ”she said.
To diversify the workforce, industry leaders will need to “be more responsible and choose to be so,” said Tracy Prigmore, founder of TLT Solutions and She Has a Deal, an organization that helps women achieve. become hotel owners through education, networking and mentoring.
Providing more diversity research and statistics similar to the Castell Project report could help incentivize employers to hire more diverse candidates, she said.
“Innovation flows when you have diversity at the table to provide information and make decisions that really impact your customers,” she said. “When we show that there are better performance results with the diversity of thoughts and experiences sitting at these leadership tables, then [companies] will be able to see it as a value. “
Thomas Penny, president of Donohoe Hospitality Services, agreed that “there has to be a greater level of intentionality” to attract black employees to leadership positions.
He added that some black mid-level managers who are considering leaving the industry might stay if they see “someone who looks like them in a managerial position, and this can give them confidence that if they stay in the industry. the business, things will go come their way. “
The hospitality industry could also look to other industries for examples of proven success in hiring more diverse candidates, said Evens Charles, founder and CEO of Frontier Development and Hospitality Group LLC.
For example, in 2003 the NFL passed the Rooney Rule, which required teams with an open head coach position to interview at least one diverse candidate, he said.
“I can cite two of them who have won the Super Bowl in the last 10 years or so,” he said.
Programs within the industry have been created to promote people of diverse backgrounds, Penny said.
He said one initiative he’s excited about is the Marriott Foundation’s $ 20 million pledge to launch the Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership at Howard University’s School of Business.
“This initiative brings together some of the brightest minds in our industry coupled with a rich history and heritage of our university to provide an opportunity to provide quality education to African Americans and others of diverse backgrounds.” , did he declare.
The program will provide “the network and visibility and whatever is needed to ensure that they have a pathway to leadership positions and that they have the mentors and support along the way to help them move forward in their career. the C suite as well as the corporate ownership side, ”he added.
Charles added that the change begins by offering black applicants interview opportunities for higher positions and overcoming prejudices.
“Often we have to work harder because of the prejudices that have plagued our country historically,” he said. “As an African American, we just think you need to open up the forum so that you can be viewed on an equal basis with someone who is not a minority.”
Charles has said that as an employer he wouldn’t prejudge someone based on their ethnicity, but he realizes that a person of color probably had to do more to get to where they are. He added that he was excited about the opportunities to “work with, promote or hire other African Americans.”
“I’m trying to equalize something that has been disproportionately disadvantaged compared to a certain group, but outside of that I truly believe that there is a significant amount of talent in the African American community,” did he declare. “When I see it I’m probably a lot more open to offering an opportunity where other groups can come in with a preconceived idea and it can be harder to move past a person’s mindset to get certain opportunities. “
Charles said opportunities for blacks were particularly lacking in his business on the investment manager side.
He said that Washington, DC, for example, has many blue collar workers who are people of color who contribute billions of dollars to pension funds, but “if you look at how many people of color are managing these investments, it’s a fraction of a percentage. “
“There are many talented investment managers out there who might have the ability to manage the trillions of billions of dollars in pension funds and things of that nature that are available to investment managers who are mainly contributed by people of color, ”he said.
Prigmore said there was also a shortage of black owners in the industry, and once there are more blacks owning and developing hotels, “we’ll see a change,” she said.
“Black people tend to understand and see the value of diversity, and so if they own the businesses that own hotels, then we will see more diversity at the top level,” she said.
She cited RLJ Lodging Trust as an example.
RLJ was founded by Robert Johnson, “and if you look at his team, Leslie Hale is now CEO and the business is diverse across the spectrum, which is intentional,” she said.
“You have people like Bob Johnson, like me, we are very aware,” she said. “I can’t compare myself to Bob Johnson… but the point is we know there are a lot of black people who are talented and able to do the job. Being a person of color, being a black woman, I know the value of that talent. “