Saturday, January 27, 2007

Women in the Hospitality Business

It was interesting to note, when I worked in a hotel in Goa, that Goan women, I`m talking only of the Hindus here, looked down on hotel jobs. They didn’t say so, but conversations implied that they were ‘brainless’ jobs which women with lesser morals took up. (Something like looking down on male models). Including me, there were just two other Goan-hindu females employed in front office and of the three, just one was a Goa-born of Goan origin. I’m not talking about the cleaning staff, but the upper end blue collars and executives and above. (Goan-hindus who live outside Goa think differently.)

I remember, one evening, a woman whom I’d met once or twice, came to tell me that her daughter, who’d completed her diploma in Hotel Management, actually wanted to take up a job in the same field. I thought she was asking me where she could find a vacancy, so I guided her accordingly, told her to post her biodata to the HR departments, watch out for adverts in the newspapers, go to placement agents, pass the word around through friends and more. Her expression stopped me. No, she virtually screamed, no job. Then what, I asked. She wanted me to convince her daughter that a job in a hotel was no good, that she should take up a ‘decent’ placement in a Chartered Accountant’s office. I jest not, she said so. What would a hotel management student do in a CA’s office? Serve tea? Re-arrange the furniture? Dust it? I never met the girl, but felt bad for her. After ‘allowing’ her to take up a course (presumably) of her choice, the parents were clipping her wings. Later, I learned that the girl had become an air-hostess….not quite the approved thing, but it paid twenty times more, so it was ‘okay’.

There were times when persons I knew were either too ‘embarrassed’ to acknowledge my presence or too awkward to say niceties to me because conditioning prevented them from interacting with staff working in hotels. I must say, though, over a period of five years, many of them got over their ‘shyness’ and have become good acquaintances. A part of this could have been because I wrote regularly for a local paper, hence joined the ranks of ‘thinkers’. What a paradox!!

A recent discussion about this has prompted me to write this. Although Goan women have rapidly moved out of the mould of teacher, doctor, musician, clerk, many have become artists, actors, adventurers, a certain mindset remains. I’d like those who don’t know much about working in a hotel to know that guests may come and go, but colleagues stay on forever, and they are fellow Goans, perfectly decent persons who earn an honest living and help you in times of distress (when I needed help, my colleagues were more than family). Some believe guest relations is a brainless job. Ah well, everyone can’t be a neuro-surgeon. Dealing with customers requires a different kind of skill: it, too, requires a high level of professionalism.