Two pairs of slippers

I wrote the other day about how if you’re in a customer-facing role, you’re expected to call male customers “sir” and female customers “madam”. This, from a travel industry talk last year by Billy Kolber, discusses the gendering and inclusivity of the hospitality industry.

When travel destinations and brands say they’re LGBTQ+ friendly, what they really mean is they’re very comfortable serving the rich, white gay men who have been visiting them for the past decade. Most have no idea who the T, Q or all the people represented by the + are, let alone how to welcome us respectfully and personally.

…Our industry is one of the most heavily gendered, with ideas about hospitality and respect that date back to the Victorian era. Virtually everything we know about travel is built on a paradigm of the heterosexual couple, mostly white, mostly American, British or German, traveling around the world.

We hold doors and pull out chairs for women, and hand wine lists to men. We market spas to women and adventure to men. For years, hotels have given couples two pairs of slippers – one big and one small.

This unnecessary gendering happens in all kinds of industries, and it’s not just relevant to LGBT+ people.

Here’s an example from this week: a new study found that during lockdown, more than one-third of women using the Zoom videoconferencing app for work have been told to wear more makeup and have their hair done for video calls; 27% had been asked to dress “in a more sexy or provocative way” because it’s important “to look nicer for the team” or to be more “pleasing to a client”.

How many men do you think were asked to dress more provocatively to be more pleasing to the client?


To be champions of equity and inclusion, we must make our own professional spaces and engagements equitable and inclusive. They must be desexualized. A gender-less future isn’t one where we don’t have gender, it’s one where gender doesn’t impact access or respect.