GENDER equality has been placed high on the agenda for Thai venues following a conference in Phuket to address the imbalance of leadership positions for highly qualified female executives in the hospitality industry.
“Mind The Gap” gathered more than 100 industry delegates to address the challenges faced by female hoteliers in Thailand. While most hotel groups have broad policies in place to ensure inclusivity and diversity, a recent study by C9 Hotelworks found that 90 per cent of general managers in Thai hotels are male.
The conference at Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket heard that too many female executives at venues such as hotels are reaching a “glass ceiling” along their career paths despite women accounting for more than 53 per cent of the global hospitality workforce, according to reports.
Delegates heard that the problem is not exclusive to Thailand. The country is generally considered to be one of the world’s more progressive destinations in terms of gender equality. A quarter of Fortune 500 companies in Thailand have women in leadership positions, compared to only 8 per cent globally.
Some of the industry’s most prominent female leaders, including company founders, directors and hotel GMs, many of whom have faced discrimination during their careers attended the half-day conference. They were joined by hospitality students and graduates concerned about encountering issues such as gender pay gaps and sexism when they enter the industry.
TOPICS included the development of career paths to senior leadership roles, support and resources available for women in the hospitality industry, the value of mentoring and education, how to maintain mental wellbeing, and achieving a positive work-life balance. The half-day event was introduced by Bill Barnett, of C9 Hotelworks, and moderated by Sumi Soorian, Executive Director of Phuket Hotels Association.
“It is a shame that we are still talking about this subject in the 21st century,” said Sumi Soorian, executive director of Phuket Hotels Association. “Gender discrimination simply should not be present in the world today; we have successful female world leaders and politicians, company presidents and directors, philanthropists, scientists and so many more.
“Women don’t need to prove themselves anymore. And yet, nine in ten hotel general managers in Thailand are still men. Why? By hosting ‘Mind The Gap’, we wanted to push the gender agenda, ask difficult questions and force companies to take notice. Young women entering the industry today need to feel empowered and inspired; they need to be able to enjoy a meaningful and guilt-free professional career. I hope that the issues raised today will help them achieve this,” Soorian said.
Many of the delegates also took the opportunity to share their advice with young women embarking on a career in the hotel industry. Pamela Ong, who introduced her mentorship program for women, advised attendees to “stay away from negative influences and surround yourself with a good support network of peers, friends and family”.
Sornchat Krainara urged delegates to “speak out loud [and] not underestimate yourself”. Isara Pangchen, who achieved a scholarship from Cornell University’s General Managers Program, encouraged women to “always take the chance to learn, study and improve”.
Mind The Gap was hosted by the Phuket Hotels Association, in partnership with C9 Hotelworks, Delivering Asia Communications and Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket.