Jane McGee, director of sales and marketing at Fairmont St Andrews, explains what difference a gender balance at board level can have on a business
Much has been said about the lack of diversity and equality in senior posts within the UK’s hospitality industry. It’s not just the hospitality sector where the claims of a ‘glass ceiling’ are made – sectors as diverse as banking, IT and manufacturing are all striving to increase equality on their senior boards. Meanwhile, the government has set a minimum target of 30% of executive committees of FTSE 100 companies to be made up of women by 2020.
It is an area that Fairmont St Andrews picked up on some time ago, leading to an executive team with 71% women.
Fairmont Raffles Hotels International is an international brand, and this is reflected in the staff of Fairmont St Andrews. We continue to hire and promote across our departments, regardless of gender.
For a hotel, especially one welcoming a large number of international visitors, it’s imperative that guests of any background feel comfortable at the resort. We’ve established a senior team based on characteristics and experience – it’s a collective rather than a group of individuals. Ensuring a synergy between senior staff is vital for the decision-making process.
It’s sometimes suggested that women struggle to maintain their senior board positions due to family commitments, and this is why Fairmont St Andrews deliberately offers flexibility. On the board, four of our five members are working mothers.
Having a balance within the hotel should also be a boost to staff, particularly our younger female colleagues, whether they aspire to be part of a senior team or not.
A diverse board shows colleagues that there isn’t a glass ceiling at Fairmont St Andrews and that we’re a highly visible, hands-on and approachable team. This is something we’ve deliberately channelled to motivate our staff.
When you consider that Fairmont St Andrews has more than 200 employees, I’m proud that equality is engraved throughout the organisation. Fairmont Raffles Hotels International offers an Aspiring Leadership programme, which encourages and grows talent early in a person’s career.
Having a more positive gender balance within the executive team – one that constantly engages with guests and different departments other than their own – is quite rare, particularly for a hotel of this size.
Our female executives are very approachable, and they make a conscious effort to support employees at any stage of their career. The team has a natural ability to make people feel at ease and for many of our staff, especially those in new and more junior positions, this has a positive influence.
Each guest is different and we strive to meet their individual needs in every aspect of their stay – and being a visible team makes guests feel comfortable. It’s a sign of respect to personally ensure staff and guests alike are looked after.
The reality is some guests may feel more at ease talking to someone of a similar age or sex, while others may prefer someone of seniority so that they feel acknowledged. It’s a delicate balancing act and having a strong and diverse team makes us better-suited to catering to everyone’s needs.
Fairmont St Andrews’ female board executives include (back row, from left): Iona Robarts, director of finance and business support, Amy Yeates, director of golf, Jane McGee, director of sales and marketing. Front row: Jane Turner, director of spa and leisure, and Lorraine Garvie, director of revenue