WiHTL Finds Progress in D&I is an Increasing Priority for Hospitality

The recently released WiHTL annual report has found that promisingly, despite an extremely challenging year for the HTL sector, female representation has increased at Board and executive committee level. However, the proportion of women at direct reports level is lower than it was last year. This setback, shrinking the pool of available talent from which to draw Board and executive committee roles, could have a long-term impact on gender diversity in the sector if not addressed.

On ethnic diversity, there has been a steady improvement over the last three years. While progress is being made, representation is still far from reflecting the general population, and the pace of acceleration must be increased. Encouragingly, the sector has steadily progressed on female and ethnic minority representation over the last three years.

The number of HTL businesses in the study group with a D&I strategy in place has increased since 2020 from 80% to 86%.

In the area of gender diversity:

· 29.8% female representation at Board level, up from 28.9% in 2020, compared to 36.2% across the FTSE 100

· 31.4% female representation on executive committees, up from 27.2% in 2020

· In comparison to FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 businesses, there is a greater proportion of women at direct report and executive committee level in the HTL sector.

In the area of ethnic diversity:

· 4.0% ethnic minority representation on executive committees, up from 3.4% in 2020

· 70% of businesses either collect ethnicity data (37%) or are in the process of doing so (33%) (up from 56% in 2020)

· Promisingly, and largely due to the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, significant progress has been made on the number and maturity of strategies designed to improve ethnic diversity. 87% of organisations have strategies dedicated to ethnic diversity (in 2020 only 24% of businesses had D&I policies which included ethnic diversity)

Room for Improvement

The report also found, however, that there is considerable room for improvement. Covid-19 has slowed progress on D&I in HTL. Representation of both women and ethnic minorities is down on last year at direct reports level (the most populous level).

In the area of gender diversity:

· 34.5% female representation at direct report level, down from 37.7% in 2020

· At Executive Committee level, gender diversity has fallen from just 10% to 7% since 2019, while the number of companies with no women on their Boards has increased this year from 15% to 21%

Discussing the lack of female CEOs at a preview of the report, Denise Wilson, CEO Hampton-Alexander Review suggested that “We have never had a stronger supply of capable, experienced women in the workforce than we have today. The pipeline of talent is full to overflowing, but we’re just not using it in the way we should be. Generally speaking, there’s a lack of knowledge in our leadership around the value of diversity, and the benefits that it can bring to a senior team.”

In the area of race and ethnicity, a step change is needed in the industry. Somewhat disappointingly, the report found the HTL sector has:

· 6.0% ethnic minority representation at Board level (compared to 9.7% in FTSE 100 companies according to the 2020 Parker Review) – down from 6.4% in 2020

· 4.7% ethnic minority representation at direct report level, down from 4.8% in 2020

· Three quarters to four-fifths of Executive Committees still have no underrepresented minorities at these most senior levels. Meanwhile, for Direct Reports – almost half of companies have no racial or ethnic diversity

Worryingly, as found in this and a previous WiHTL and The MBS Group report last summer, Covid-19 has had a negative impact on diversity in the industry. Women and ethnic minority colleagues were disproportionately furloughed at all levels. External hiring freezes blocked companies from welcoming leaders from underrepresented groups, and businesses lost vital role models.

At a preview of the findings, Debbie Hewitt, Chair of The Restaurant Group said, “We should really celebrate the fact that we’ve got a yardstick showing where we are and where we need to get to. The discussions have become more meaningful, moving beyond tokenism to how we can execute real improvement.”

Elliott Goldstein, Partner, The MBS Group said, “Our latest research shows that the hospitality, travel and leisure sectors have made sustained progress over the past three years in driving the diversity agenda. However, there is a long way to go: our leadership continues to be significantly unrepresentative of the UK population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability and social mobility. Coming out of the trauma of Covid-19, we are now in a position that companies can build back with inclusion at the core of the recovery. Excitingly, we can see a number of companies who are poised to take advantage of this opportunity.”