Christina Grasso

This week, to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, 2023, HM is giving female leaders in the accommodation industry a platform to share their views on ways to support women in hospitality careers.

Here, The Star Sydney GM Hotels, Events and Guest Experience, Christina Grasso, shares how progressive parental leave policies are helping to drive equality in the workplace.

As ‘memory makers’ and custodians of the ‘welcoming experience’, leaders in the hospitality, accommodation and tourism sectors are uniquely positioned to ensure that sense of belonging and inclusivity extends to their team members.

Despite the progress made in recent years, gender inequality continues to be an issue in hospitality and most notably in senior management roles. A point recently illustrated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) 2022 Scorecard, which highlighted that women represent around 53% of the sector’s workforce but 45% of its management positions.

Supporting women’s careers in the Australian hotel and hospitality sector is important for both gender equity and the growth of the industry, especially as we continue to be challenged by the skilled labour shortages.

A great bottle of wine does not mature overnight; nor can we expect to change decades-long imbalances.

However, as leaders and employers in the hotel industry, we can do more to ensure progress is made towards gender equality.

For example, The Star has gender representation goals, being 45% men and 45% women in leadership roles (with the remaining 10% providing scope for any gender identity) however developing policies that empower all employees to achieve it is the key to real equality.

I am proud of the work The Star is doing to lead in this space.

In 2021, The Star revised, and promoted a new parental leave policy that including 16 weeks primary carers leave, and a two-year window from the birth of child to take it. It has produced tremendous results with nearly 47% more people overall, and a 35% increase (to 47.2%) in men taking time to look after their newborns.

I look forward to taking advantage of The Star’s fantastic entitlements later this year.

It will also be an opportunity for me to be a visible example to other women, and men in our organisation that taking parental leave does not necessarily mean it will impact your career trajectory.

Further, to remain connected to the business and allow for a smoother transition back, I plan to keep engaged with my team and leadership group, via our ‘Keep In Touch’ days.  

This, and other flexible work arrangements at The Star directly supporting women, who traditionally undertake carer duties, foster a family friendly, diverse, and inclusive workplace across each of our three properties. They also encourage all team members, regardless of gender, to find and enjoy a work-life balance.

From a leader’s perspective, I have witnessed the positive effects of these policies – particularly for businesses such as ours that operate 24/7. It is about ensuring team members have the freedom to prioritise what is most important – whether it be early morning school runs, last minute doctors’ appointments or anything in between.

I am also a big believer in sponsorship, advocacy, and mentorship. I see it as a leader’s responsibility to identify team members with potential, but who may have skills gaps and support them in new roles. Without that advocacy and encouragement, over prolonged periods of time, that ambition and those skills may not have the ability to flourish.

Beyond these examples, there are a myriad of opportunities for our industry to show support for the longevity and careers of women, including providing opportunities for women to take on leadership roles, advocating for pay equity and collaborating with industry associations to deliver networking, professional development, and advocacy groups.

Ultimately, we are in the ‘people business’, and that is true for both our guests and team members.

Creating an environment where our staff feel supported, recognised, and authentic will enable them to deliver exceptional outcomes – not only for guests and but also their careers.