Q&A: The Castell Project’s Peggy Berg discusses women working in hospitality
Peggy Berg, founder of hotel investment advisory firm The Highland Group, launched the Castell Project in early 2016. The non-profit organization champions moving more women into executive and c-suite roles in the hospitality industry, where there is a dearth of female leadership.
In fact, the Castell Group’s recent study Women in Hospitality Industry Leadership 2017 found that as of 2016 “men have been 10 times more likely to be promoted to the principal/partner or president levels than women, four times more likely to be promoted to the EVP/group president level and more than twice as likely to be promoted to the senior VP, VP or district level.” The Castell Group’s mission is to change that through a workshop series focused on enhancing the negotiation, communication and networking skills of a select group of women who participate in the yearlong program.
Here, Berg shares her views on the opportunities currently available to women in hospitality and how that could change going forward, while also offering advice to women just entering the hospitality industry on how to forge a successful career path.
Hcareers: Do you feel that the hospitality industry offers the same opportunities to women as it does to men?
Berg: There’s enormous good intention out there, but we haven’t figured out as an industry how to make that real and offer the same opportunities to women as to men. One chicken-or-egg question asks if women have children and then leave the workforce and therefore are not getting promoted. But another way of asking that question is when women have children, do they stop getting promoted and therefore leave the workforce? If a woman has a baby and realizes at that point that she’s being offered less opportunity, she has a choice: she can leave the industry and do something more rewarding or she can be penalized for having a child. Given that choice, a lot of women choose to leave. But that’s not very beneficial for the industry because the fact is, women with children are some of our strongest and most successful employees and leaders.
So the assumption that women are leaving because they’re having children is erroneous. Maybe it’s that as women have children, the industry redraws opportunities for them and that’s damaging to women and to the industry.
When a woman has a child, a lot of things come into question: what opportunities are available to her; how do these opportunities work with having a family; and what’s the best course of action? Firms have the choice of making the best course of action to stay or to leave and the habit is to make leaving the firm a standard or common result. That doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for the company or the woman involved. It just means it’s what we’re in the habit of doing.
Hcareers: Are there segments within the industry that offer women more or better advancement prospects than others?
Berg: The report identifies areas within the industry that have made themselves more welcoming to women at all levels of leadership: human resources and marketing come up the most frequently. The areas that are on the flip side of that tend to be development and finance and interestingly, those are the areas that offer the highest income opportunities and yet, have been the most resistant to welcoming women. I think part of changing that is exposing it and that’s one of the reasons why we put out the report.
Hcareers: Does the industry currently offer a clearly defined path for women to achieve C-suite positions?
Berg: That’s specific to the company. There are some companies within our industry that have done a terrific job at that and there are also many companies that haven’t yet gotten there. Getting there is a long process because it involved developing talent internally as well as hiring practices at all levels of the organization. It takes a long time to grow into that. We hope more companies will understand the value of growing into that kind of diversity. Companies that already have diversity at the c-suite level are more resilient and more profitable – and that’s across all industries.
Hcareers: What are some of the steps and the skills that the Castell Project teaches women to take and acquire in order to advance their careers in hospitality?
Berg: We teach negotiating because women negotiate a bit differently from men, which makes it a little harder for them to learn from male mentors. So we provide negotiation training in the broadest sense of word – for contracts, for sales, for a place in the hierarchy, an opportunity to be visible on the podium, for a place at the table in strategy discussions.
There are also some specific networking skills that are particularly helpful to women, focused on body language and interpersonal relations. We also work on the skill of developing a resource network, both within a company and outside of a company. We also build a resource network of women for women within the program.
Also an important part of anyone’s career development is understanding your strengths, areas where you need to build up your skills and where you want to take your career. Once you’ve named it, you can achieve it. We work with women to develop their career plan, understand their capacity for advancement and then build a plan to get there.
Hcareers: What advice could you offer to women just getting started in the hospitality industry?
Berg: It makes sense when you apply to a company – if you want to have a career with that company – to look at who’s in the c-suite and ask do opportunities for women in the company compare to men, given what exists in its leadership. I also think it’s important for women early in their careers to recognize that how we curate our careers makes a difference.
We also hope to put more information to help women early in their careers on our website, but we’re still developing that piece. So I would ask these women to keep an eye on the Castell Project and as they get to the point in their careers where they start to have specific questions that we could help with or are looking for a resource, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want these women to get to the point where they’re ready for the program and we want them to build careers in the industry.