Hospitality, travel and leisure sector sees improvement on gender diversity over the past year

Feb 07, 2019

New analysis of gender diversity in the hospitality, travel and leisure sector shows the industry has made positive progress in the past year to address the number of women in senior positions. While improvements have been made, there is still work to be done to meet the 33% target of female representation across boards and executive committees by 2020, set by the Hampton-Alexander review.

The report, launched today, shows the percentage of women in board level positions at FTSE 100 hospitality, travel and leisure companies increased to 32%, up 3% from 29%, slightly better than the cross sector average of 30%. There has also been improvement on the number of women holding executive committee and direct report positions (into the Executive Committee) in companies.

The sector review, led by Tea Colaianni, Chair of WiH2020, an independent cross-industry body supported by firms including PwC and The MBS Group, assessed the progress companies have made since gender pay reporting became mandatory for companies with over 250 employees in 2017. A total of 120 companies were interviewed and their data analysed as part of the review.

Tea Colaianni, Chair of WIH2020, said:

“The FTSE 100 is one of the strongest performing groups of the hospitality, travel and leisure sector for gender diversity and the improvements they have made mean they are just shy of meeting the 33% target for women on boards.

“However, there is a widening gap between those who are performing well and those who are not. Currently, only a quarter of companies are at target for both board and executive committee/direct report measures.”

FTSE 250 companies also saw an increase in the percentage of women in board level positions (22% vs 20% last year). Overall this percentage remains below the cross-sector average of 25%. However, for Executive Committee and direct reports, the FTSE 250 is outperforming the sector average of 25%, with a figure of 27.8% - marginally down in comparison to last year.

There has been encouraging progress in the number of women non-executive directors (NEDs) with the rate at which women are appointed to NED roles over the past 12 months reaching 62%. Across the FTSE 350, 40% of NEDs are women.  The number of women who are direct reports across the whole sector has reached 36%.

Elliott Goldstein, MBS, said:

“This year, for the first time, there are now no all-male FTSE 350 hospitality, travel and leisure boards, which is a good step in the right direction. But this is not the time to get complacent. The vast majority of companies are below the cross-sector target for gender diversity on at least one key measure showing there is still work to do. Meanwhile, our research shows that just 1 in 33 leaders in the sector are from a BAME background, well below the cross-sector average so it is clear our sectors have much more to do to ensure true diversity.”


The research shows areas that need focus to drive further improvement should include addressing the lack of women in key leadership positions, with just 7% currently holding the title of CEO across the sector in the FTSE 350. In addition, the number of people from a black and ethnic minority background is vastly underrepresented in the sector, with just one in 33 leaders (combined board, executive committee and direct report) in the industry identifying as BAME. With the UK Government launching a consultation on mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting in October 2018, this is clearly an area that will be increasingly be in the spotlight for businesses in the coming months and years.  

Jon Terry, Diversity and Inclusion Consulting Leader at PwC said:

“Overall there has been encouraging progress across the sector, but there is still much work to do to increase the number of senior women and people from other diverse backgrounds. A focus on ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities to progress and for firms across the sector to better reflect their customers, brings benefits to business as well as to society.”

Tea Colaianni concluded:

“The statistics in the review show some encouraging progress, although more work needs to be done by many companies to achieve sustainable change. The report also sheds light on a number of never seen before collaboration initiatives across the sector such as Comeback to HTL, the ground-breaking first ever cross industry returners programme.

“The number of talented women not returning to the sector after a career break is remarkably high. Comeback to HTL aims to welcome returners back to the industry, provide the appropriate level of support and flexibility and help them fast track their career to senior levels. The hospitality, travel and leisure industry, the third largest private employer in the UK, should and can lead the way in this area.”




Notes for editors

The full report is available to download here.

About WiH2020:

WiH2020 is devoted to increasing women's representation and diversity as a whole in leadership positions across Hospitality, Travel and Leisure.

We believe that through collaboration we can amplify the impact of individual diversity initiatives, together we can have a bigger, louder voice for the good of the HTL industry.

For more information, please visit

About The MBS Group

Founded by Moira Benigson 30 years ago, The MBS Group is a leading sector-specialist executive search firm covering all consumer-facing industries. Our clients consider us trusted advisors, partnering with them on critical leadership roles that make a difference. We work at board level and on executive positions across all functions of strategic importance to our clients.

For more information, visit


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