Women in hospitality, travel and leisure

How equipped is the industry to achieve 33% female representation across boards and executive committees by 2020?

We joined forces with Chair of Women in Hospitality 2020 Tea Colaianni, Korn Ferry, People 1st, Oxford Brookes and others to assess how equipped the industry is to achieve 33% female representation across boards and executive committees by 2020 - a target set by the Hampton-Alexander Review. The group spoke to over 100 chair people and chief executives, recruiters and graduates entering the industry.

The industry, which includes hotels, pubs, restaurants, catering, attractions, clubs and leisure establishments, is the UK’s 4th largest employer. 4.6 million people (10% of the workforce) in 180,000 businesses contribute to 10% of the UK’s GDP (£143 billion).

In addition to the review, the first of its kind for the sector, a diversity in hospitality, travel and leisure charter has been developed which we are asking companies to sign.

Key findings

Diversity and inclusion strategies need to be led from the very top of organisations to progress, and to inspire and attract prospective employees - this is not simply an issue for HR, it’s an important business and reputational consideration.

The research found women make up 26% of senior management positions in the hospitality, travel and leisure sector with the figure dropping to only 20% when human resources roles are excluded.


Travel and technology led businesses were the best performers in terms of gender diversity with 30% and 28% of women in senior management roles respectively, compared to airlines with just 20%.

Previous PwC research shows that 80% of millennials believe an employer’s policy on diversity and inclusion is an important factor when deciding to work for the company. 

Magnet for talent or employer of last resort?

Diversity & inclusion in the hospitality, travel, and leisure industry, and its effect on brand and reputation

As part of the review, we used PwC methodology to analyse 26 companies from the hospitality, travel, and leisure sector to determine how their approach on to diversity and inclusion are is likely to be perceived by employees, potential recruits, customers and other key stakeholders. And how they can turn their reputation into a source of strength and credibility.

The analysis revealed that progress on the issue is, on average, significantly lower than some other industries. A common weakness across the industry is a lack of ownership or sponsorship of diversity strategies from the board. Instead, the strategy, development and execution are largely left to HR.


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“Getting this right will improve hospitality, travel and leisure companies’ ability to select from the best talent, boost motivation and reduce turnover. The workforce and its leadership will also better reflect the diversity of the customer base and understand its demands.”

Jon Terry, UK Diversity and inclusion Consulting leader, PwC

We identified a number of immediate steps leaders can take on their journey to embed diversity and inclusion in their companies, enabling the hospitality, travel and leisure industry to enhance its reputation and become an attractive industry for diverse talent. For organisations at the start of their journey it may be appropriate if initiatives focus more on certain types of diversity. However, it is important to ensure they are positioned within an overall long-term goal of creating an inclusive environment for all employees.

Short-term actions

Make the most of what you’re already doing internally at both organisation and industry level

If there are programmes and initiatives in place on diversity and inclusion, ensure these are prominently and externally disclosed. For example, empower employee networks to promote themselves externally and forge new relationships with other networks in the sector. This can help improve an organisation’s reputation, create new relationships with clients and stakeholders and give network members an opportunity to gain new opportunities and experience in the industry.

Use gender pay gap reporting requirements as an opportunity to enhance the whole industry’s reputation on diversity
  • Consider analysis pay gap figures from firms across the sector, and, as the picture emerges, identify the root causes of the gap (which is likely to be common for most firms). Issue both external communication and internal communication for the member firms.
  • Focus on the narrative of what is being done at the industry level to address the issue.
On an organisational level, consider if reporting requirements could be used as a platform to gather, analyse and review data for other diversity dimensions
  • At the very least, discuss priorities and commitments to diversity in all its forms.
  • Draw on technology and other tools to enable and support more flexible working with shifts that can be balanced with child-caring responsibilities.
  • Develop a compelling employee value proposition that allows the organisation to articulate better what it offers a diverse workforce.


Longer-term actions

Assign accountability to industry leaders and report progress 

Ensure that any diversity programmes set up at an industry level have goals and objectives and an accountable leader.

Make the most of your diversity and inclusion advocates 

Understand who  the diversity and inclusion advocates in the sector are and explore how their work can be applied at an industry level as well as an individual organisation level. 

Review existing industry-wide initiatives and address any gaps to fully embrace the Women in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure initiative
  • Consider embracing the Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure initiative to supplement your organisation’s internal initiatives.
  • HR programmes and employee networks may make have more impact on a sector-wide basis—this is particularly relevant for smaller organisations. 

Contact us

Jon Terry

UK Diversity & Inclusion Consulting Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 7720 555 397

David Trunkfield

UK Hospitality & Leisure Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7764 235 446

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