The beginning was not easy, but times have changed dramatically these last two decades, and this can be seen as much in the tourism sector as in many other sectors – or perhaps more. Zafiro Hotels is a good example of this: it is a young hotel chain that has managed to inherit grand achievements of the past and bring them to the present, making sure that gender equality is a priority and parity is integrated into the work structure.
This is emphasized by its owners – María and Antonia Plomer – who stress that the implementation of equality policies within Zafiro Hotels is not something that has been imposed, but rather an intrinsic reality that applies naturally within the company, almost instinctively in a way, as part of its DNA.
"In our case positions are filled by looking at the person's competence, it is never conditioned by gender. It is clear to us that women are as capable as men in any kind of profession and can handle any kind of undertaking based on their natural capacity for leadership and academic background", they state.
A more egalitarian sector
With more than 20 years of experience in the world of tourism and specifically in the area of hotel management, the owners of Zafiro Hotes are a clear example of how true equality is possible. The two of them recognise that "you can still find yourself in a meeting completely surrounded by men in senior management positions", but they claim that men are increasingly aware of equality
and that being a woman and senior manager within the sector is not as complicated as it used to be.
"In recent years we have met an increasing number of women and we should keep in mind that Mallorca is full of family businesses in the hotel sector where many of us are managing these companies as second generation family members. We live in an era where professional work is increasingly valued and appreciated, regardless of whether it is male or female", they say.
Based on this, they both think that "today's generations are prepared for change" and "the most difficult part of the road to equality is behind us", thanks to all the women who have fought for the rights of working women throughout the centuries.
Balance is key
In spite of these advances, both María and Antonia Plomer admit that at Zafiro Hotels as well as in the sector in general there is still "a lot of work to be done, there are still departments where the majority of employees are male and those where the majority are women, and this ought to change in the future”.
That change is by necessity tied to work-life balance "for women as well as men", a policy that HR manager Elena Alzamora also underlines, stating that this kind of change does not only affect companies, but society as a whole.
"The problem in the tourism sector – and in all sectors – is not the present. The problem is the past, a past that we still carry with us and that might change in one or two generations to finally become just that: the past. A society where men worked and women raised the offspring", explains Alzamora, who clarifies that this concept is something completely removed from the equation at Zafiro Hotels where they manage people who are valued for their talent, and not as men and/or women.
Zafiro Hotels with its organisational chart that shows both male and female hotel directors and middle managers – a total of 131 people – wants to make all members of staff aware of this reality, which is why everyone participated in an equality training programme at the end of last year. The focus was on equal opportunities and gender perspective in relation to Royal Decree-Law 6/2019, of March 1.
"We always want to be one step ahead of the rest", says Alzamora, proud to be part of a company where equality is "ingrained in the brand". "Women are present at all levels on the organisational chart", from ownership to middle management and production positions.
Parity on all levels
It is real equality that the ownership and the HR department are talking about, and there are numerous examples of this within the company. Soledad Jiménez is one of them, a 41-year-old Sevillian who works as maître at hotel Zafiro Menorc, a traditionally "masculine" position that she fills with complete "naturalness".
She does admit that it is not always easy for people to understand this and that some are surprised, but she emphasises that her colleagues always have supported and respected her. The most complicated aspect, according to her, is balancing work and family in a sector like tourism. In that sense, she adds: "Providing solutions such as childcare centres in the workplace if there are a certain number of employees could be a good solution, I think.”
From a position as hotel manager of the 5-star hotel Zafiro Palace Palmanova, Estíbaliz Santamaria sees it clearly: when occupying a position of responsibility such as hers, being a woman is advantageous in many ways. With 24 years' experience in the hospitality sector, she points out that women "have different sensibilities than men. Not better or worse, different". She is blunt when she speaks of leadership capacity: "I have no doubt that women are excellent leaders".
Along the same lines Isabel Moreno, director of the new 5-star Zafiro Palace Andratx agrees and points out that women "see things differently", but she also admits that it is more difficult to reach a position of responsibility as a woman, as women have to face obstacles such as "comparing themselves, demanding more of themselves and putting themselves to the test".
Having faced a varying number of hurdles along the way, women make up 50% of the staff at Zafiro Hotels at present, and they are making history going about their daily work. All of them are optimistic about the future and believe in being able to continue advancing, step by step, in a sector where it has not always been easy for them to do so.
The goal is getting closer every day. In the words of the director of the HR department: for the Zafiro Hotels family, every day is March 8.