The Castell Project, Inc. Releases “Black Representation in Hospitality Industry Leadership 2021” Report

ATLANTA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Officials of Castell Project, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the careers of women professionals in the hospitality industry, today released the “Black Representation in Hospitality Leadership 2021” report. In spite of industry statements of support, Black employees lost share of hospitality industry employment and remained under-represented in leadership over the past year. “Hospitality is even more dependent on Black employees than other industries in North America so equity and inclusion will be vitally important to the industry’s ability to attract employees post COVID,” said Peggy Berg, chair, Castell Project, Inc. “This is a time of remarkable opportunity, as virtually every company in the hospitality industry restructures at once. As McKinsey & Company reports, ‘diverse companies outperform industry peers over time, and the penalties are getting steeper for those lacking diversity.’ This is the hospitality industry’s rare chance to open opportunity to diverse employees and to rebuild equitably.”

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The report shows the public face of hospitality industry leadership. Analysts captured information from the websites of hotel companies based in the US or Canada listed in the STR Directory of Hotel & Lodging Companies. Each entry was reviewed twice, once in the company website and then compared to the LinkedIn profile. The dataset includes 7,243 people in 801 companies for 2020. Statistics shown reflect employees from the level of director through CEO. Highlights of the report include:

  • Black representation in leadership for the public face of the hospitality industry fell from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, only 11 percent of the 801 hotel company websites reviewed for this study showed Black executives (director through CEO) compared to 16 percent of 630 company websites in 2019.
  • Black executives represented 1.6 percent of hospitality industry executives at the director through CEO level on company websites in 2020. This is 10.9 times lower than their 17.5 percent share of hospitality industry employment. This indicates that advancement is not equitable for Black employees in the hospitality industry.
  • One in 5.7 industry employees is Black compared to one of 49 vice presidents and one of 58 EVP/SVPs shown on websites at year-end 2020.
  • Average employment in Traveler Accommodation fell 35 percent (by 479,000 people) from 2019 to 2020, despite full employment in the months before the pandemic, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The hospitality industry let go a higher proportion of its Black workforce than other employees. Black employees comprised 17.5 percent of traveler accommodation employees in 2020, down from 18.8 percent in 2019. The hospitality industry also let go a higher proportion of Black employees than the overall average for US businesses. In 2020, 12.1 percent of all people employed were Black, down only slightly from 12.3 percent in 2019.
  • Korn Ferry reports that Black people hold five percent of executive positions across all industries and four percent at S&P 500 companies. This compares to the hospitality industry at 1.6 percent.
  • Intersectionality, the combined impact of race and gender, is more pronounced for Black women at each higher level.

“This is a pivotal moment,” Berg added. “Because of the scale of business disruption during the pandemic, how we bring people back to work, and who we bring back, will define the industry for years to come. This is a pivotal moment as we shape the industry for a diverse future marketplace.”

A full copy of the report can be found on the Castell Project website at www.castellproject.org.


Castell Project, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of women to the highest levels within the hospitality industry. With support from industry partners, Castell delivers impactful leadership development for rising female industry executives, innovative research on diversity in the hospitality industry, Castell@College connecting executive women to students, WSH List connecting conference organizers to expert women speakers, and Fortuna’s Table bringing women into hotel ownership.


Chris Daly, media

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