Women in African Hospitality

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Hala Matar Choufany, spoke with leading female executives at THINC Africa 2018 conference,  at Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town about ‘Women in Hospitality’. The main focus of the discussion was the challenges, opportunities and victories faced by women within the African hospitality sector.

Participating in the panel were Lee-Ann Singer, Marketing Director Singer Group; Talya French, Business Development Manager, Marriott International; Ronleigh Gaddin, CEO Amani Spas; and Simone Kuhn, Manager Business Development Radisson Hotel Group.

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Emphasising on the progress women have made in the hospitality sector, Hala stressed, “In the last 10 years, more women have taken leadership positions and while we still have to catch up, governments and organisations are realising the key role women play in the workplace. We have seen remarkable change and growth for women in the hospitality industry where they have proven that they are every bit as capable and qualified as men. Development of detailed career plans as well as improvement in corporate practices and policies within enterprises continue to be instrumental in promoting equal opportunities for women in career progression.”

So, what is it that holds women back from taking the top management positions in the hospitality sector especially in Africa? What are the barriers to upward mobility or career advancement of women.  Hala stated, “Challenges and issues around women and men work inequality are universal and not continent specific. There are many internal and external factors that could impact women’s career path such as their own motivation, skills, educational level, lack of support or equal opportunities. Balancing work and family is potentially a challenge at times, especially due to perpetuation of traditional gender roles. Hospitality industry demands long hours and a great deal of crisis management and problem solving and this could be quite exhausting for some women. Also, different kinds of cultural norms, values and stereotypes often act as constant barriers.”

Hala added, “To close the gender gap in the workforce and overcome societal barriers, women need support and training. Successful women should become more visible and support other women. Organisations too must go above and beyond to ensure women have a chance to work in positions that have been traditionally filled by men as well as have more opportunities to grow in their career.”

Hala’s message to all women out there is: “Be confident and believe in yourself. Have passion, empathy and be flexible. Don’t focus on what other’s think and the challenges out there, rather focus on where you want to be. Women have natural abilities to multi-task and that’s a big advantage. Remember there is a huge scope for you to shape your career.”

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.