Tourism experts and local female hotel general managers reveal how Hong Kong's hospitality industry has come so far from being dominated by men and why it is a bright career path for women.
Amanda Hyndman became the general manager (GM) at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong last December, the first woman to do so in the brand’s 59 years of history. She still remembers the first time she took on a GM role: “There was a rather upset guest in the lobby demanding to see the GM. I asked, ‘How can I help you?’,” Hyndman recalls. Instead of telling her the problem, he looked at her and repeated, “I want to see the GM.”
Hyndman isn’t the only one who has been taken lightly because she’s a woman. Rainy Chan, GM at The Peninsula Hong Kong until 2017, has experienced her share of being assumed to be a secretary. “The question I’d hear most often was ‘Where is your boss?’” Chan said at the Web in Travel (WIT) Future Leaders Forum at The Murray hotel in 2018. When she transferred to Bangkok in 2004, her male colleagues constantly threw sexist remarks at her about her appearance. “What was hard for me was the industry was not really ready for women to take leadership roles.”
Despite challenges like these, Hong Kong’s hospitality industry today doesn’t lack female talent. Dorsett Hong Kong says that 58 per cent of its executive committee members are female; one-third of The Upper House’s executive committee team are female; one in six GMs of all the Marriott hotels in the Asia-Pacific region is a woman; and four out of seven executive committee members at K11 Artus are women. According to Rebecca Kwan, the chairman of the Hong Kong Hotels Association until 2020, out of its 140-plus member hotels in Hong Kong, roughly 15 per cent have female GMs.