THE GLASS CEILING IS ALIVE AND WELL, THANK YOU

April 22, 2015
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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but talking about breaking the glass ceiling, year after year after year without ever doing anything about it is getting old.

It is as empty as talking about California running out of water and doing nothing about it, when our entire coast abuts the Pacific Ocean.

When the new century rolled in (yes that was fifteen years ago already) all pundits were claiming  “This is it. Equality between men and women in the workplace is just about to happen.”  Sorry Charlie, as of today, well into the 21st century, the earning differential between men and women is still shocking, with women earning a mere 77% of men’s salary.

Better yet, it has been established that some of the most “progressive” areas in the U.S. workplace are definitely outright hostile to women: the geeky, hoody wearing kids in Silicon Valley have been feeling threatened by women in their midst, resulting in mass resignations of some of the best female intellects in the country.

But let’s forget Silicon Valley and look instead in our own hospitality backyard: the only truly high-ranking woman in the hotel industry is in her position merely because her father did not have sons. Marilyn Carlson Nelson is the Chairman and former Chief Executive of Carlson.

A few specific statistics:

London this year had a net loss of 2 female General Managers.

Paris remains low in terms of women GMs, with a wash compared to last year: Sofia Vandaele came into the newly redone and renamed Hilton Paris Opera while Myriam Kournaf left the Montalembert after 9 years to become the Managing Director of Coppola Resorts. However, no change in the 8 Parisian Palaces (Hôtel de Crillon, Hôtel Ritz, Le Royal Monceau, Hotel Plaza Athénée, Le Meurice, Mandarin Oriental Paris, Shangri-La Paris, and Peninsula Paris) where only Franka Holtmann is on her ninth year as GM of the Meurice.

New York had a net addition of 2 female General Managers this year, with Anne Juliette Maurice at the Hotel Plaza Athénée and Suzanne Hatje at the Mandarin Oriental.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, is about to lose one of its very few women General Managers.

And if you want to take a tour of the websites of hospitality’s largest groups, here is what you will be finding:

Hilton: 12 smiling faces. One woman only – Kristin Campbell, Executive Vice President and General Counsel.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts: 14 smiling faces. Only 1 woman – Martha Poulter, Executive Vice President/Chief Information Officer.

Marriott: Smiling group of 17. Includes 5 (non-family member) women – Carolyn B. Handlon, Executive Vice President-Finance
and Global Treasurer; Stephanie Linnartz, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer; Kathleen Matthews, Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer; Amy C. McPherson, President and Managing Director of Europe; Laura E. Paugh, Senior Vice President of Investor Relations.

Even Four Seasons, known as progressive in our “milieu” only has 2 women on its executive committee of 11 . They are Sarah Cohen, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, and Susan Helstab, Executive Vice President Marketing. Katie Taylor, once the Four Seasons Corporate Counsel, was briefly its President and CEO, but was replaced by “outsider” J. Allen Smith in September 2013.

By the way, tallying our placements of the past 15 months, it so happens 35% were women. And two of the three Boutique Search Firm stars are women. Are we the only ones doing it right? What can be done to remove that glass ceiling permanently?

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