After becoming one of the leading hotelliers in the region, since 2016 Ahmed Sabry has been taking Radisson Blu Heliopolis to new heights as their General Manager. What makes him different to other managers though, is his commitment to female empowerment in the hospitality industry, more than doubling the proportion of women at Radisson Blu Heliopolis in just 18 months. We spoke to him to find out why it is essential for influential men to ensure that there is space for women to shine and flourish.
Why is female empowerment so important?
It is very important to have a proper and healthy mix in the workplace. Perhaps women can’t do certain jobs that require a lot of heavy lifting, but other than that, I am a big believer in bringing women into the hospitality industry. Females are very smart, very committed and there is a lot of work that they can do very well.
“Eventually I would love to reach 50% of the workforce being female!”
What does ’empowering women’ look like at Radisson Blu?
When I arrived we were at 12.6% and now 26%, more than double increase. In 2018, we want to reach 30-35%. Eventually I would love to reach 50% of the workforce being female!
I am putting women in many different departments; front office, housekeeping, we have injected them into the restaurants, the business center, the outlets, the spa. Even the kitchens have female cooks which is something very rare. I also have a lot of veiled women working in the back office which is something I am very proud of.
Current 3 out of fifteen department heads are female, which is fantastic, although I would love to reach 5 or 6.
Is Radisson Blu an industry leader when it comes to female empowerment?
Rezidor in general have women in leadership globally as a priority, they want to achieve 30% if not more. I don’t know the percentages in other hotels, but we are definitely one of the best.
Are there specific projects and policies that you employ?
We are focussing on significantly shifting the hiring practices. We frequently take fresh graduates that we then train, which allows us to tackle the issue of a lack of qualified women. There are certain positions that I prefer females to fill, so we try to ensure that that is the case.
At the moment there is an issue with finding qualified women, but we try to get around this by hiring fresh graduates and then training them to reach the required standard. Women are definitely performing very well in these circumstances!
How do you intend to keep this progress going?
I monitor the gender balance every month and am committed to ensuring that the percentage only goes up and not down. When we have a female leaving, I sit in the exit-interview to find out exactly why in order to ensure we have a work environment that is conducive to female participation.
“There were no real obstacles other than people did not have faith that women were going to perform as well as the males. Which is completely wrong.”
Have you noticed any changes in the hotel’s performance with having more women employed?
There are definitely more positive vibes! Women also tend to be very organised and committed. Introducing this high standard into the workplace is very important. The women in the cleaning staff are far more aware of the little details, the males I have to train them to notice the details.
What were the obstacles women faced getting into the hospitality industry?
There were no real obstacles other than people did not have faith that women were going to perform as well as the males. Which is completely wrong. Increasing female employment succeeded for me in the Hilton Hurghada, in Jordan, even in Saudi Arabia. 14.8% of my workforce was female, which is significant for Saudi Arabia.
Have the responses from the employees also been positive?
Yes, very positive. There was a bit of resistance in the beginning. However, I don’t just give orders, I explain them. If they aren’t convinced they come to my office and I explain why. When they see that this helps them improve work efficiency, they are very happy to do it.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Yes. It is very important to embrace women in the industry. If everyone embraces it we will improve efficiency and puts positive vibes into the work environment.
Do you think that men get intimidated by powerful women and why?
I don’t think so. Only sick people get intimidated by powerful women.
What is your top tip for women looking to succeed in the hospitality industry?
To work hard and have an eye for detail and quality. Be smart and always ask about her career path.
Check out Radisson Blu’s website here.