Hiring Success

The state of diversity in the hospitality industry

Back in 2013, I stood at the side of the stage, waiting to be handed that tiny rolled up piece of paper that contained the words “you did it!” I had worked my proverbial a** off. A 1st class degree. My name was called and although the moment passed quickly, this memory has stayed with me forever. As any culmination of three years of hard work should. As any graduation ceremony should. 

But this memory stays with me not because of the moment of celebration that it was, but because of the shock I saw in the faces of those who saw me walk off stage to embrace Amelie, my 4-year old daughter. It was apparent that the shock was derived from me now being placed into the young-mother category, rather than the career driven one. 

Over time I have learned to think fondly of this memory as it has shaped my beliefs as I develop both professionally and personally. The memory reminds me of the conscious decision I made that I can and will always advocate for those with different backgrounds, circumstances and places in the world—and support the choices and sacrifices they have made to be successful. 

“The wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”

– Maya Angelou

Fast forward a few years. I am no longer a fresh-faced graduate. I have earned my stripes as a recruiter and I am looking for my first role, leading TA. It is at this point that I, like four out of five hospitality employees, select hospitality as my next role because of the diverse workforce it boasts. 

And I was not wrong. Over the past few years, I have loved the experience of working in hospitality. When it comes to diversity, we are on the right path. Research shows clear evidence that the hospitality industry has made positive changes towards female and black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) representation into leadership roles here in the UK.

What does this collective team effort towards better representation look like? Well, over 80% of companies now have a D&I strategy in place— with many actively integrating it into the company’s DNA, not just treating it as a separate, tick-box exercise. 

This is all well and good, but, perhaps it’s easy to create a D&I strategy— put a target in place here and a policy there—then pat ourselves on the back for being “inclusive.” The question is: are our actions making real noticeable change? Are our leaders inclusive? Do they understand the power of diversity and the bigger picture?

Findings from the 2019 WiHTL Report concluded that, promisingly, we are out-performing other industries in our efforts surrounding women and BAME representation, with our year-on-year improvement demonstrated below:

But the general feeling is that we could be doing more. Having gone on to win over 17 awards over the past three years for TA, Inclusivity and Employer Branding, looking round at the awards ceremonies and the underrepresentation, it’s clear that while people seem to be passionate about driving this change, enough isn’t being done.

And employees across our industry would agree. 

Less than a quarter of employees cited that their hospitality companies have designated programs in place to recruit diverse candidates and even less are aware of any development programs targeted to develop team members into management roles.

Is it then any surprise that despite female and BAME representation at board, executive committee and direct reports level increasing, there is still a significant diversity disproportion between those in team-member and senior level roles? Hospitality is not alone in this; you can look to other similar industries, such as retail and education and see the same patterns. 

This is not good enough. Especially when ALL the data highlights that sales and revenues are significantly improved in organizations with a diverse workforce. I, for one, support pushing harder, advocating more, and creating opportunities for everyone—irrespective of their background. Along with my friends at HIRE—Hospitality’s Internal Recruitment Exchange (a network for in-house recruiters in hospitality to share positivity and best practice), here are our top tips: 


  • Look at your employer brand critically. Is diversity part of your core company values? If not, why not? Do not just play lip service. Do not seek out that one minority employee and use them to create the impression you are diverse. Make a commitment to improving how diverse you are and use this as part of your employer branding. And update your audience as you go. Remember that there is more to diversity than just race and ethnicity. 
  • Still recruiting for the same skills and behaviors as you always have? It is time to shake it up. Are you recruiting for creativity, resilience or leaning agility yet? You should be. And if you have not yet scrapped that need for a degree from a top-tier university… What are you doing? 
  • Once you have nailed what you are recruiting for, it is about translating these requirements into a language that appeals to a diverse audience and is also inclusive. Textio is cool here. Other tools are available. 
  • When you take that advert to market—it needs to be rotated across multiple channels, job boards, social, through to partners – to ensure you are including a broad range of demographics.
  • We ALL need to move away from the CV, but especially in hospitality (people focused industries should not still be assessing with a piece of paper!). This is where psychometrics, gamification and automation are KEY but should not be exclusively used, to ensure you are not discounting those with neurodiverse characteristics
  • What gets measured gets done—and funnel reporting is so important. Measuring the success rate by each stage of the process is how you can identify where you need to intercept and provide training i.e. unconscious bias or adaptations to your collaboration & selection process— removing the interview and replacing with interactive tasks. 
  • Create a mentor program where people can’t mentor those who are very different to them
  • Set targets. Measure. Hold managers accountable. Make this data visible to everyone in the organization. Go beyond measuring the normal gender, LGBTQ+ identities, race and ethnicity, disability etc. How inclusive is the organization? Does everyone feel like they belong? Doe each team feel that their manager respects them equally? We’re also a huge fan of making pay rates, department representation and turnover surrounding diversity, transparent. 

I hope that in 10 years’ time when I’m watching my daughter at her own graduation (if, of course, this is where her plans take her), that I’ll know she’ll be embarking upon a career with no concerns about where she can go and that the notion of a glass-ceiling feels prehistoric in 2030.

I also hope that irrespective of what her life brings, she can bring her authentic self to work and be recognized for the unique lens which she brings to the world. And I hope, that when she gets to the top, that she is surrounded by other ethnically diverse women, like her, who we have fought hard to pave the way for. 

And, that if all other industries have not yet got there—that hospitality will be the one place where she can always find a diverse work-home and family. 


Natasha Nagra

Natasha Nagra

Natasha Nagra is the Head of Employer Brand & Talent at Kew Green Hotels Limited.