In May this year, The Peterson Institute for International Economics completed a survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries and found that having women at the C-Suite level significantly increases net margins. Therefore, it is critical, not just for the hospitality industry but for all businesses to invest in a more balanced workforce. Among the world’s largest 500 companies, only 10.9 percent of senior executives are women, according to Weber Schandwick’s Gender Forward Pioneer Index.

In order to tackle this, UKHospitality, executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, BT Sport and sector agency Elliotts have launched The Leadership Mentoring Programme to fast-track female leaders in the sector.

Aspire spoke to Ann Elliot, one of the creators of the initiative to talk about the importance of more women obtaining leading roles and how the programme intends to help. 

“I’ve been in the sector a very long time and I’ve seen some fantastic women come onto boards, but for me I think this programme is about helping people believe they belong on the lists, to overcome imposter syndrome. All of us have experience being on boards or starting businesses and it is ultimately about giving women the courage to think they can do it, and they should be there.

It’s not about teaching skills, it’s not necessarily saying the women out there aren’t capable, it could be that they might not feel that they’re capable. It is about empowering them to believe in themselves enough to put themselves forward and progress in their roles.”

Despite more than four fifths (82%) of respondents agreeing there should be more women on leadership teams in the sector, and two-thirds (65%) believing it important to have a mentoring scheme in place, fewer than half (48%) had plans to implement one.

Ann said: “I think, ultimately, it’s important for the sector that more women are present in higher roles. There are very few women either in executive or board roles, so if a head-hunter is asking for an executive list for 50% women 50% men for a board level position, there are not necessarily the women around to fill the 50% women quota.”

We want to get to a stage when women are on those lists because of the job they do and, they have the confidence to be on those lists, to get the interviews and get those jobs. So, it’s to try to give women the assurance to apply for those jobs.”

The announcement comes a month after Propel launched the first sector conference to feature an all-female line-up. The Women’s Entrepreneur Conference, in partnership with Elliotts saw a total of 11 company founders share their stories, tips and advice to inspire more women to set up their own business.

“Going on a board is very different than being in a managerial role, there’s the responsibilities and accountabilities, and you’re monitored on how you walk, how you speak, how you cope with the politics, there’s a lot of things to think about going to board. If you’ve never been on one, the first time you go on one it’s extremely challenging. The programme will be people discussing their times on boards and sharing their skills.”

With the goal to provide mentoring, advice and motivation, it is the first industry-wide mentoring initiative to help female managers in hospitality and leisure break through to senior executive and board-level roles.

The programme has been launched to 100 mentors and are looking to implement their 12-month plan which currently has three dates in January, May and October.