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Not Good Enough: Black Representation in Hospitality Leadership

As much as we have collectively done for the better representation of minorities in the positions of power across different industries, evidently, we are still at the beginning of a very long and sometimes bumpy road. The best justification for such a strong claim is the differential rate at which different demographic groups lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic. Being a calamity of grand scale, it truly did wonders exposing the structural inequalities still present in our communities.

Specifically, the Castell Project’s Black Representation in Hospitality Industry Leadership 2022 report finds that this group’s representation in leadership for the public face of the sector is not making the progress necessary to provide opportunities for Black employees. According to the report, only 11% of 671 hotel company websites reviewed exposed Black executives in top leadership positions prominently on their websites, which constitutes a decline from 2019. Furthermore, those Black executives represented just 2% of all hospitality industry workers on company websites reviewed.

Coming back to the pandemic-related figures, Black employees in hospitality were disproportionately impacted, making up 18.8% of the hospitality workforce in 2019 compared to just 13.6% in 2021 – a horrifying 52% job loss rate. Meanwhile, across all industries, employment declined only 3.2% with a similar result for the Black workers.

Looking at the specific departments, Black representation in leadership is heavily weighted toward human resources, with HR employing over a quarter of Black workers at the director to CEO levels. At the same time, Black employees are also significantly less likely to find opportunities in food and beverage, construction and design, or investment and development.

“We recognize the remarkable support of the many men and women working to advance Black representation in hospitality industry leadership,” says Castell Project chair Peggy Berg. “However, as executive director of Tourism Diversity Matters, Greg DeShields says, ‘We need to rethink working in the hospitality industry and rebuild trust. This requires hiring diverse talent into higher levels of management, acting upon the importance of having leaders who reflect the demographics of our customers and creating an inclusive workplace.’”

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