A report released by People 1st, the sector skills council for hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism, highlighted that the number of women working in the tourism industry has fallen considerably over the past six years. The report shows that around 310,000 female workers are leaving the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism industry each year, costing businesses £2.8 billion in replacement recruitment and initial training.

Reasons indicated for leaving the industry are women’s lack of advancement to senior roles, the difficulty of combining work with caring responsibilities, a dominant macho culture, preconceptions and gender bias, a lack of networking and a lack of visible women in senior positions.

The sector is one of the faster growing areas in the country at the moment, but despite this the percentage of women has dropped over the past six years from 61% in 2004/5 to 56%.

Speaking at the launch of the Women 1st Top 100 Most Influential Women and Shine Awards nominations, Martin-Christian Kent, People 1st’s director of policy and research, said: “Employers in the industry are losing a valuable resource when talented women are unable to achieve their career ambitions. If we are able to develop and retain more women in the industry, it would help ensure that we have the number of skilled managers we need for the future.

“The report also demonstrates a clear link between women’s representation in senior management and business performance indicators such as financial performance and shareholder value. It makes sound financial sense for sector businesses to develop women for senior positions and consider the appointment of more women on their boards.”

The report stresses that:

•Having at least one female director on the board appears to cut a company’s chances of going bust by about 20 percent. Having two or three female directors lowers the risk even more.*

•Research has shown that the Fortune 500 companies with three or more women on the board gained a significant performance advantage including a 73% higher return on sales, an 83% higher return on equity and a 112% higher return on invested capital than those with the fewest female board members.**

•In the UK, women are expected to own 60% of all personal wealth by 2025 and there are now more female millionaires between the age of 18 and 44 than male. Businesses that don’t represent and respond to the demands of female customers at senior decision making level may lose out commercially. Only 12.2% of the FTSE 100 directors are women.

* – Leeds University Business School

** – Catalyst: The bottom line: Corporate performance and women’s representation on boards, Catalyst, New York, 2007

*** – Cunningham, J and P Roberts: Inside her pretty little head: A new theory of female motivation and what it means for marketing (2007)