Female executives said there’s a level playing field for men and women when it comes to running an independent hotel well, but there are still issues when it comes to pay scale and on-the-job training.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Running a successful independent hotel comes down to how much you know the business regardless of gender, but women in the independent sector are still dealing with industry issues such as unequal pay and different on-the-job training.
At this year’s Inndependent Lodging Executive Summit in Las Vegas, female executives on the “Independence Day for women execs” panel talked about the perks and challenges of being in the independent sector. Here’s what they had to say.
During the session, moderator Toni Repetti, assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, asked panelists why they chose to work in the independent hotel sector.
Bobbie Singh-Allen, EVP and COO of the California Lodging Industry Association, said working with independent hoteliers gives her a chance to fight for the underdog.
“So what attracted me, I actually used to work for an (American Hotel & Lodging Association) state affiliate … before I was recruited to the California Lodging Industry Association, and what really attracted me was … I felt like this was an opportunity to fight for the underdog,” she said. “It really goes towards fighting for those that represent Main Street, not Wall Street, so I have that sort of fighting spirit of always wanting to represent the under-represented, so it was a natural fit for me to want to be a part of an association that is trying to level the playing field.”
Tina Patel, managing director at ALKO Hospitality, said hoteliers have more flexibility when it comes to independent hotels.
“Independent is the best,” she said. “I think your (quality standard) has to be the highest, but I put that standard there myself. Nobody is telling me that I have to do it a certain way; I can make my room whatever way I like … that’s the beauty of running an independent. You can do a lot more things and you can attract a lot more guests.”
Challenges for independents
Hoteliers may have more flexibility when it comes to operating an independent hotel, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any challenges.
Singh-Allen said the biggest challenge independent hoteliers face is leveling the playing field with the big brands.
“A lot of independent hotels, I’m an association, I don’t own and operate anything, but I represent 5,000 members that do, and I think from that standpoint it is to make sure that our members have quality services, quality products and really level that playing field because (our members) aren’t going to really necessarily have that in-house marketing team or their in-house HR and a legal force, so it’s our job to make sure that they have access to their resources, so that they can compete with the Marriotts of the world and be in compliance, but also it gives them an opportunity to be outside-the-box thinkers,” she said.
Patel said marketing is an important part of successfully running an independent, which can present challenges if you don’t know what you’re doing.
“The marketing is the one aspect (you need to know). … It’s best to have your online marketing with someone who knows what they’re doing,” she said. “If you really know what you’re doing on your marketing, how to run your business, being a man or a woman, it doesn’t really matter.”
Industry challenges for female execs
Gender might not matter when it comes down to successfully operating a hotel, but there are still a few issues in the hotel industry that are not equal for men and women.
“The reality is, we still don’t earn the same,” Singh-Allen said. “So I like to think that it’s a level playing field for women, but the reality is we’re not paid the same. So, I mean, those are facts.”
Additionally, Jody Harwood, VP and managing director at Grace Hospitality, said women and men in leadership roles are not mentored in the same ways, specifically when women are moving up in their roles.
“… Men are generally taught and mentored on business … teach them about financial statements, teach them about (return on investment), and when it comes to mentoring women … most mentor relationships have to deal with teaching them interpersonal skills,” she said.
She said those different skill sets leave men and women with different professional outlooks.
“And so what do you think are the more important harder, soft skills that anyone needs in leadership and how can we do a better job of making sure that everybody—whether it’s a male or a female—has skills necessary to move up in leadership?”