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.

Accor Vice President Operations, VIC, TAS, WA, SA, NSW & ACT for Apartments and Realty, Michelle Bradshaw, discusses the importance of female role models and supportive parental leave policies.

I want to begin by saying that I don’t profess to be an expert in this space, I only have my own lived experience and the experience of other women who I work with. In light of this, I believe that there are some barriers in relation to supporting women in leadership in hospitality which should be addressed across the industry.

The best support we can offer women seeking careers in hospitality is to have more women role modelling what a hospitality career can look like, it sounds simple, but I believe it is the single biggest, most inspiring action we can take. I have two young children and a successful career and I often get asked by aspiring women, how do I do it and how could they do it, or worse still they don’t think it is possible for them.

When speaking with women considering hospitality careers, I frequently hear of two main barriers. The first is for women to identify the best time in their career to take a break to have a family, at what stage of your career path do you feel it is safe and possible to do so? 

Personally, I decided to have a family when it felt right, at a time when I felt I had reached a particular level of accomplishment and had built a solid confidence in my capability and value. Upon returning from maternity leave my organisation was incredibly supportive in providing a flexible work arrangement that has allowed me to have a fulfilling family life and continued career growth. 

The second barrier is this: if a woman is the primary earner in their household, how do they take a break and still provide financially for their families? It’s critical that organisations have supportive paid maternity/parental leave policies that support parents and carers.  Followed by policies that support a flexible return to work so that the individual doesn’t have to make the difficult decision between continuing her career, providing for her family or having a fulfilling family life.

Not all women want to be mums, so some of the above points don’t relate to everyone, but certainly seeing more women achieving career progression will give people the confidence that it is possible to have a successful career in hospitality.