Breaking the glass ceiling: Hospitality, entrepreneurship and female leadership development


Dr Stuart Jauncey, Managing Director of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, explains why embracing an entrepreneurial mindset is key to developing future leaders and supporting workplace equality.


Agility and ambition: A new workforce for a new workplace


Aspiring hospitality professionals are no longer limited to the traditional career pathways of a generation ago. The digital age has transformed the industry, changing traveller preferences and opening doors to new business opportunities. Besides building careers as hotel and restaurant managers, today’s hospitality leaders are just as likely to be technology experts, experience curators and the founders of start-ups.


The values of Generation Z, or those born after the mid-90s, are well-suited to this new entrepreneurial landscape. According to a study by Universum, INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, the HEAD Foundation and MIT Leadership, one in four Gen Z students and professionals worldwide is interested in starting their own business. In terms of leadership aspirations, the gender gap is also closing across this young generation, a trend that began with their Millennial predecessors. 61% of Gen Z and Millennial women and 63% of Gen Z and Millennial men say that becoming a leader is important to them, compared to 52% of Gen X women and 63% of Gen X men.


As educators, we must strive to prepare students with entrepreneurial — and intrapreneurial — skills. Today’s secondary school and university students have grown up in an age of entrepreneurship that reveres disrupters and self-starters. At the same time, even large, well-established companies require innovation from within to remain competitive. A sense of resourcefulness, resilience and agility is not only increasingly necessary in today’s fast-paced industry, but also resonates with the values of Gen Z and empowers graduates to realise their own professional goals.


Developing an entrepreneurial mindset


Entrepreneurship professor Tina Seelig of Stanford University believes that entrepreneurship can be taught by building upon inborn traits, such as our natural ability to imagine. At Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, we have adapted our curricula to encourage students to generate innovative solutions through imagination and creativity. As part of the BBA in Global Hospitality Management degree, students can specialise in Hospitality Entrepreneurship, learning how to research, plan and pitch their own hospitality business concept. Through a partnership with talent incubator Seedstars, students can apply their knowledge in an immersive entrepreneurship “bootcamp” on campus in Switzerland; for three days, they receive coaching from entrepreneurs and compete to pitch their start-up ideas to a jury of experts. In addition, Les Roches regularly invites entrepreneurs as guest speakers on campus to share their experiences with students.


We often find that it is through out-of-class activities and real-world projects that students truly discover their entrepreneurial potential. For this reason, Les Roches encourages students to partake in competitions, hospitality summits and other immersive learning experiences. Guided by faculty, each year teams of Les Roches students work together to successfully present their best business ideas at international hospitality competitions. Students also have the opportunity to help companies solve real business problems: at the graduate level, MBA students carry out business consultancy projects as part of their degree, working with renowned hospitality companies in Switzerland and abroad.


Through these experiences, as students develop essential hard skills, such as financial forecasting and modelling, they also gain valuable soft skills, such as teamwork, leadership, multicultural communication and creative problem solving — skills which are vital in any workplace.


Supporting female entrepreneurs and leadership diversity


Empowering students and preparing them for the global marketplace begins with fostering a diverse and welcoming campus environment. Approximately 80 nationalities are represented among the student body at Les Roches Switzerland, and 53% of our students are female. Our diverse faculty also bring experience and expertise from around the world. As a result, students develop skills in multicultural awareness and communication from day one — skills that are further enhanced through internships and semesters spent abroad.


The diversity of the Les Roches community is reflected in an alumni community of industry leaders spanning the globe: leaders such as Shagun Mehra, class of ‘03, who runs her own food and beverage consultancy business, Food Design Studio, and has been named one of the Top 5 Craftspeople in India by Fortune Magazine. Shagun’s passion for the culinary arts led her to be invited as a judge on Indian television show Femme Foodies, where she advocates for women working in gastronomy.


Other Les Roches women have also made their mark both in business and in supporting female leaders. Dimple Lalwani, class of ‘12, has founded two start-ups in London. The first, Social Belly, was an app connecting foodies over shared meals; the second, Talking Circles, fosters knowledge sharing and talent development among co-workers. In addition to running her own business, Dimple supports a network of women and men dedicated to gender equality as a Lean In Circles Regional Leader with a focus on women in start-ups.


Grace Muchiri, class of ‘00, founded the Club Managers Association of East Africa to transmit her passion for this industry and empower others in their professional development. Symphony Loo, class of ‘14, is breaking boundaries in the typically male-dominated field of bartending: the 25-year-old group bar manager at The Dandy Partnership (a group of bars and restaurants including Neon Pigeon) was named Rising Star in 2017 by The Bar Awards in Singapore. And alumna Gabriela Carvalho, class of ‘99, is the founder and chef of Quintana, a restaurant that was chosen as Best Restaurant in Curitiba, Brazil, by national magazine Veja.


Given the right tools, today’s youth is ready to break new ground in different industries across the world. As educators, we have a responsibility to equip students with the entrepreneurial mindset and skills to seize those opportunities.


About the author: Dr Stuart Jauncey serves as Managing Director of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, a leading hospitality management institution with campuses in Switzerland, Spain, Chain and the US. An academic and hospitality professional, he has spent the past ten years as Dean of The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management (EAHM) in Dubai.