Strengthen The Soft Power

On Woman’s Day, author and erstwhile hotelier,Shruti Johri rues that the role of female workers in Indian hotels is firmly acknowledged but barely nurtured

The core of hospitality is infused with empathy, elegance and eagerness – attributes that are largely feminine. That explains why it’s a ‘woman’ who often ‘mans’ the customer interface in hotels, restaurants, airlines and travels.

Interestingly, the role of female workers in Indian hotels is firmly acknowledged but barely nurtured.

According to the 2017 India Skills Report, women comprise 26.2% of the workforce in the hospitality sector – hotels, aviation, tours and travels. Another article by Times of India reports the female workforce participation to be as high as 55-60% in South India and West Bengal and 40-50% in Maharashtra, Punjab and Delhi. (The percentage has been found lowest in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar).

Despite the growing participation in Indian hospitality, women are poorly represented at the higher management levels when compared to their male counterparts. Studies also reveal that even though the number of women opting for hospitality education programs and jobs has increased, the proportional rise in the number of women reaching at the top management positions is still missing.

The missing women representation at higher levels in hotels indicates a high drop-out rate among other reasons. As many as 40% female respondents were uncertain about their career continuity in the hotel industry compared to just 7% male respondents according to a study that reached out to 110 hotel employees at various levels across 13 hotels in the NCR region.

Other findings reveal that for the most part, women are hired to do semi-skilled or low-skilled work, and hold low-paying jobs


There are multiple barriers at the socio-cultural, organisational and individual levels. Women workers in hotels continue to grapple with gender biases and threats in various forms at the social, organisational and individual levels.

While the lack of family support and potentially unsafe work situations discourage them to continue with work, organisational preference for men in leadership positions threaten their meaningful participation in the industry.

Furthermore, deeper issues at the individual level lead to a visible lack of career goals and the requisite competencies needed to grow in the hospitality sector.

During this International Women’s Week 2018, let’s pledge to build awareness among hoteliers for a systemic overhaul and not just quick fix remedies.

Let us hope for larger systemic changes such as revising HRD policies related to leadership development in women along with inclusive succession planning programs, adequate maternity and paternity leave, flexible work timings, part time work options and a phased return of new mothers at work without any night shifts for at least a year. Setting up of crèche facilities for children aged up to 5-6 years belonging to women employees along with a proper medical room can also be strongly suggested.

A stronger push towards proper implementation of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is required. Alongside, smaller yet important steps like gender sensitisation of male co-workers and clients through frequent workshops and subtle messaging in guest service communications, safe pick-up and drop of female employees by authorised drivers and organising self-defence workshops for women at work can also help.

– Shruti Johri was earlier in the housekeeping department of a hotel and later authored a book ‘Her Master’s Key’.

About Shruti Johri

Shruti is a Hotelier-turned-Writer who made her author debut in December 2017 with ‘Her Master Key: A Hotel Housekeeper’s Stories from Inn-dia’ (Rupa Publications).

The book is a first of its kind in India, dedicated to the trials and tribulations of its native hoteliers, especially women.

Her career started with training at The Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development (OCLD) in 1998 followed by work experience with The Oberoi Hotels, Taj Hotels and ITC WelcomHeritage hotels. She has published several articles on hotel operations at some of the leading Hospitality publications. An avid blogger, she also forayed into writing short stories and was among the top ten winners at Times of India Write India contest #TOIWriteIndia – Season 1.

As a trained Instructional Designer, she develops curriculum blueprints, lesson plans, and integrates course materials with assessments.

She is married and lives with her two daughters in Bhopal, India.

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