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Understanding the barriers to women and the under representation of them working at executive levels in top tourism and hospitality companies, and how these can be abolished.

Understanding the barriers to women and the under representation of them working at executive levels in top tourism and hospitality companies, and how these can be abolished.
Author: Charlotte Hope
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Abstract: This paper discuss the disparity of numbers of women in the tourism and hospitality industry. Women make up the majority of the workforce in the tourism and hospitality industry, however are highly under-represented in the top executive roles. This paper looks at the barriers for women achieving these and how it is more difficult than it is for their male counterparts and the solutions there are to help change this.

Key words: Gender, inequality, tourism, hospitality, women in tourism, executive roles in tourism, barriers, company performance, recruitment and selection.

Discussion paper: With over 70 % of women working in the tourism industry and a high percentage of women studying tourism management at university it is surprising to see such low numbers of them working in top executive roles in the industry (People 1st, 201). This disparity in the numbers is worrying for the tourism and hospitality industry as a whole, due to various studies which have taken place that have shown by having women in the boardroom and executive roles it is a more positive environment and also has great benefits for the business profits and staff commitment, showing the direct correlation between better company performance and having a higher number of women on executive committees (Women Matter, 2013). it is felt that they are being lost along the way up the career ladder due to various barriers that appear for them.

Gender inequality has played a major role in the prevention of women reaching the top executive roles in the industry (Baum, 2013) with these gender issues causing major challenges at all levels; regional, national and global. The most pressing question for women and the industry is why is this happening? People 1st (2010) conducted a study to inspect the main barriers which impede women’s advancement into executive roles in tourism. These are:
1- The difficulty of combining work at senior level with caring responsibilities
2- Dominant masculine organisational culture
3- Preconceptions and gender bias
4- Lack of networking and exclusion from informal networks of communication
5- Lack of visible women in senior positions

“These five factors do not operate alone and, in reality, they reinforce one another through a variety of social, business and individual factors.” (People 1st, 2010). These 5 barriers are a culmination of all the barriers that women are presented with and will be further explained in more detail as they do cross over, and People 1st are right in that they do not operate alone, these barriers are interlinked.

There are further reasons women have struggled to reach top roles in the past in the tourism and hospitality industry; the whole idea of the job role is extremely demanding and being able to create a good work life balance, with the interruptions of childcare, which many women face and the support systems that are put in place to help them, or lack of. With so many women starting out in the industry there must be a clear point that they are being ‘lost’ at and this is in need of change. Furthermore, research has shown that many women choose to work part time or go into part time work to ensure a balanced work and family life. this is in comparison to men who are more likely to work full time and spend only 2.2 hours per day devoting their tie to domestic tasks, whereas women spend and average of 4.5 hours per day. The caring responsibilities that many women face need to be addressed and looked at by the companies as it is in both interested to do so, giving women the aid they need. The ‘anytime, anywhere’ ideology suggested by (Davis, 2012) in this industry makes it increasingly difficult for women to have a family and achieve top roles, so many are having to choose between the two. People 1st (2010) found that women who were successful in this industry have no dependents or have waited until their children have grown up before pursuing their goals.

An argument which has been used in the past is that women are not as competitive and ambitious as men, therefore this being the reason why they do not achieve the top roles in the tourism and hospitality industry. However, according to Women Matter (2013) they found that women were just as ambitious as their male counterparts in wanting to achieve these roles, although the confidence that women have that they can successfully achieve this, is much lower than males. It is feared that they lack the confidence of males in this area due to the lack of visible female role models in the industry. Baum (2013) states that for women to have this confidence it is vital to allow them to develop their own careers and also establish platforms in which they can share experiences and also seek guidance, it is thought that the support of inspiration is vital.

This is thought to have occurred due to the recruitment and selection process in the industry favouring male employees and the previous negative perception of women in executive roles in companies. This has now being addressed as an issue for the industry and many initiatives have been put in place worldwide to increase the number of women in executive roles in tourism and hospitality, therefore empowering women to achieve tees roles and get past the confidence issues and negative perceptions. The gender inequality changes are a slow process and will not happen overnight, however with more recognition of the problems solutions can be brought about and the gender inequality gap will be reduced.

-Baum, T. (2013) International Perspectives on Women and Work in Hotels,    Catering and Tourism, International Labour Office, Working paper 1, [Online]. Available from: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---gender/documents/publication/wcms_209867.pdf [Accessed: 24th March 2015]. 
-People 1st. (2010) The case for change: women working in the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism. [Online] Available from:http://www.women1st.co.uk/system/assets/files/000/000/004/original/Women_1st_Case_For_Change_Executive_Summary_November_2010.pdf?1342707875 [Accessed: 26th March 2015]. 
-Women Matter. (2013)Gender Diversity in top management: moving corporate culture, moving boundaries. [Online] McKinsey & Company. Available from: http://www.mckinsey.com/features/women_matter [Accessed: 20th April 2015].