Equal gender balance in management of Íslandshótel

Íslandshótel is one of the companies to receive recognition from the Leadership Equality Program by the Association of Women Business Leaders in Iceland (FKA). The hotel chain operates on an active gender equality policy and therefore has a committee for equal rights within the company.

Íslandshótel is one of the few Icelandic companies to receive recognition by the Leadership Equality Program, also known as the Equilibrium Scale, by the FKA (Association of women business leaders) in Iceland.  The Award, handed out for the first time this year, was for the chains stellar performance and excellence in minimizing the gender gap in management councils where women have been a minority. Two municipalities and sixteen companies were also beneficiaries of the award with Íslandshótel being the only company in the travel industry recognized.

 “It’s an honor to receive this award,” says Erna Dís Ingólfsdóttir, chief human resources and quality officer at Íslandshótel. “We feel it’s important to be a role model in our industry sector as well as the economy in general.

A majority of the employees at Íslandshótel are women and the gender balance in managerial roles within the company is almost equal. “Our hotel managers are comprised of 65 % women and our department managers 51 % women. The ratio between men and women within the executive board is 40/60 which is the goal of Equilibrium Scale project for 2027 in all sectors. Though having more women in the company, our leadership ratios are still almost equal with women being slightly higher in management positions.

Getting all the voices to the table

Erna Dís is proud to receive the award on behalf of Íslandshótel. “We won’t be stopping at this. Sometimes we feel small in the scale of things but when you execute changes within your close environment they have an impact and can inspire others.”  Erna Dís says that the recognition is a step in the right direction and praises the vigorous effort by FKA who encompass a network of business women and encourage companies to hire women to managerial positions. 

Íslandshótel operate an active equality policy and operate an equal rights committee. Professional groups within the company have been established around different departments and projects to strengthen all decisions made.  “These are active groups; employees enter in and out of them so they are constantly changed. Their role is to encompass everyone and get different views and ideas from varied groups who offer ideas to changes and novelties which are then presented to the executive board. This system has worked really well for us, we are always striving for everyone to have a say.”

Still a long way to go

Erna Dís began working for Íslandshótel in 2002. “I then went abroad to study and came back in 2008. You could say that I’ve grown up within the company.” She has taken on a variety of roles for the company including hotel manager, department manager, HR development and quality control manager.  She is therefore a good example of the active career development taking place within Íslandshótel, something that appeals to job applicants. “Seventy-seven percent of the hotel managers have reached that position by growing within our company and sixty percent of those on the executive boards.”

“The company environment is exciting, incredibly fun and dynamic.” she quips. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have worked here for so many years. I learn something every day. It’s also nice to see more women as part of the executive board although we still have a long way to go.”

Employees from 47 nations

During the time period that Erna Dís has been working for Íslandshótel she’s noticed a lot of changes to the travel industry which, as many people are aware of, has grown considerably in the past few years in Iceland. “We’ve put a lot of ambition over the past years into our inner structure and professionalism has become much greater in past years. Professionalism is the first value of the company. This has changed quite a lot since I began working in 2002 and it’s nice to observe these changes. It’s good to work for a company that’s always prepared to adapt, change and support further developments in the matters of equal rights.”

Changes towards more equality at Íslandshótel has resulted in a more varied group of applicants. Erna Dís says that Íslandshótel can be proud of the fact that figures show that the ratio between men and women applying for managerial positions is almost equal and also that the applicants are of many nationalities. “People see that there’s an active career development process within the company for all groups.  We are very proud of that. There are 75% of international employees at Íslandshótel from 47 nationalities.”

Equal wages for all groups

“We have a maximum of over a thousand people working for us. It’s therefore important that a varied group of men and women of different nationalities get to make decisions within the company. It’s important to have capable employees who make decisions on behalf of a very varied group of employees and customers. Not everyone has a seat at the board but it’s important that those who do have the capabilities and understanding to see matters from different perspectives and are able to put themselves in the position of others.  By having people of different nationalities in managerial positions we furthermore secure that decisions are made for the benefit of our hotel guests who come from all over the world to stay with us. It’s the company’s greatest strength,” Erna Dís adds.

Íslandshótel also received the equal pay certification last year. The company not only strives for an equal gender balance but for equal rights between different nationalities and therefore took the initiative to begin organizing changes to the equal pay system to incorporate more groups than just men and women. “Personally, I would have liked to see the equal pay certification apply to more diverse groups from the beginning, such as different nationalities,” says Erna Dís. “However, that should not stop us from taking matters into our own hands and set up such a system. It is something we’re already working on. It’s important for us to be a leading force in this field as well.”