Women seeking a career in hospitality in the Middle East should take every opportunity to sit at the table, take charge of their professional life and make things happen. By Assia Riccio, founder of Evolvin’ Women.
All over the world, women who are determined to advance in the business community deal with the same challenges.
In some cases, these challenges are peculiar to the country they live in. Dealing with these challenges requires a long period of time and is dependent on the cumulative effect of individual successes coupled with support from those with the most influence.
In the UAE for example, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, the wife of Sharjah’s ruler, has announced that a Ministry for Women must be established. She added: “women are the pillars of advancement in all societies”. This statement is so true especially in the hospitality industry where the number of female employees is high.
Women must choose carefully which companies to join, who they surround themselves with as mentors and sponsors (their ‘visibility board’), and how they deal with their own biases.
Choosing the right employer is just as important for an individual, as it is for companies to choose the right employees: interviews are a two-way exchange. Take the opportunity to ask about the number of women in senior roles, the duration of their tenure, and if there were promoted internally. The answers to these questions will give a good indication of the company’s culture. Search the internet; check if the career paths of these women reflect your own ambitions.
Choosing the people to connect with is also critical in one’s career development and progression. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to surround yourself with people who are committed to making you shine and stand out from the crowd.
The hospitality industry is growing at a fast pace and it is always changing and developing. To succeed in this industry, it is essential to have your own ‘visibility board’ – a group of people that you have selected to coach, mentor, sponsor and provide you with feedback.
Without coaching and mentoring, women are likely to miss the benefits of receiving feedback, advice and idea generation. Likewise, without sponsorship, women are likely to be overlooked for a promotion regardless of their competence or performance. Being noticed by the C-suite is critical for your success. This is particularly true in mid-career, in supervisory or middle management roles when the competition for promotions is more intense.
Networking and attending events are great opportunities to connect with people who can join your ‘visibility board’. The Middle East, and particularly Dubai, are well known for their networking events, however, the development of women in the hospitality sector has not been a focus of these events.
An individual’s own biases in terms of how they perceive the ‘glass floor’, along with their perception of the difficulty and the hurdle to break into a predominantly male dominated arena, can often be a major challenge and stumbling block. In the Middle East, this glass floor may appear even more evident, however, the UAE is one of the most active regions promoting women in the workforce and the Dubai Business Women Council is a good example of this effort.
Since women are an essential part of the workforce, they have the power to influence the increase in the number of women in leadership roles. That could be achieved if they choose properly who they want to work for and who they connect with. They must also reinforce, through success and the support of one’s ‘visibility board’, the belief that the glass ceiling is there for you to break through.
The time is right and the opportunity is available for like-minded women to sit together around the table to tackle the challenges relating to their career growth in the hospitality industry. In reality it is our choice to set ourselves up for success and take control of our careers.
Women seeking a career in hospitality in the Middle East should take every opportunity to sit at the table, take charge of their professional life and make things happen. They must take every opportunity to speak their minds and believe in the value that their contributions bring to the table.
Hospitality can be a very fulfilling career for women as it offers countless opportunities for them to become future leaders, responsible for improving the face of this fascinating and ever-changing industry.