I am writing from Amman Jordan, where I am participating in the conference: Leveraging Corporate-Community Partnerships to Support Women’s Progress. I am here to talk with the NGO, government, and private sector attendees about measuring the social impact of their programs. Reading the November 2-3 issue Jordan Times, the local English language newspaper, I noticed an article about a program to train women in Jordan to fill jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry. There is a shortage of 25,000 jobs in the tourism industry, jobs that have traditionally been filled by men. According to the article, families have been reluctant to let their daughters work in this industry. This is slowly changing and the opportunities for women for careers in all aspects of the tourism and hotel business are growing. The applicants attend a six month training program and then work in one of the participating hotels for six months. This appears to be an excellent way for these young women to decide if this is a career for them and for the hotels to decide if this is someone they want to hire. Most of the women in this program are being hired immediately upon finishing their training.
What I wonder about is retention. Having the skills and knowledge is not enough, especially in a society that has a very low glass ceiling. For religious, cultural, and political reasons, women in Jordan and throughout the Middle East have not had access to these careers in the past. What will happen in the workplace? Will they be ostracized and harrassed? Will they get the support they need to succeed? Will their managers continue to help them learn what they need to know to advance so that they will become models for other young women? Will they receive the feedback they need to continuously improve their abilities to compete for jobs? Will their training, education, and development continue within these companies? These are questions that will need to be answered before we can call this a successful way to bring women into the tourism and hospitality workforce in Jordan.