2017: Towards equal tourism participation and inclusive working environments: access, security and wellbeing  >  Tourism as work: Exploring the worker perspective


Occupational gender segregation in the hotel sector and how It affects women workers

Written by: Hill, Megan

University: Lincoln


This paper discusses occupational gender segregation in the hotel industry. It is one of the most pressing issues that affects women in their career in terms of development and the gender pay gap. The hotel industry is comprised of a high percentage of women when compared with men however men are almost always over represented in managerial positions. This paper will therefore asses the reasons for why occupational gender segregation exists and how it is affecting women especially migrant women in the hotel industry.

Keywords: Hotel industry, migrant workers, women, inequality, gender occupational segregation.


Women dominate the hotel sector in terms of employment with 70% of the workforce being women. Although this is the case, women are being underrepresented in the higher paid, higher skilled positions which are actually nearly all male dominated. This division of jobs by gender in employment is known as occupational gender segregation (European Commission, 2009). The idea of gender roles is said to have originated from the catholic society many years ago. Men were the ‘head of the households’ and were the ones that brought in the money and provided for their families, whereas the women were in charge of ensuring the home was taken care of such as the domestic duties (Duffy Et al, 2015). This idea is clearly still prominent within the hotel sector even in today’s so called modern society.

There are said to be many causes of occupational gender segregation within the hotel sector in particular. Firstly, the certain characteristics that the hotel sector displays lend themselves to this divide. Women are said to suit certain jobs more than men such as cooking and cleaning roles as these replicate their ‘domestic duties’. Women are also more likely to take lower paid jobs when compared with men. This is mostly likely to be because men are seen as the ‘breadwinners’ in many families and therefore want to strive for the higher paid positions to be able to provide enough for their families. Women also have the added pressures of balancing work and family life which can lead to women taking part-time jobs over that of than full-time work.

The severity of occupational gender segregation was found by Campos-Soria Et al (2011) to depend upon a few different factors. These being the level of responsibility, part-time and seasonal contracts, educational level and age. The higher the responsibility a job brings the more heightened the occupational gender segregation becomes. As men are said to dominate the jobs which provide a position of power. Part-time and seasonal contracts make employees more vulnerable to this segregation, and as women are the ones who are most likely to take part-time jobs it is affecting them the most. The greater the educational level of an employee the less likely they are to experience this segregation however this doesn’t always apply to women. Some graduate women are still stuck in lower skilled jobs when compared with men with the same educational level. Also the older an employee is the more likely they are to be exposed to occupational gender segregation.

Women are affected by occupational gender segregation in many ways including the gender pay gap, facing barriers with careers progression and being treated differently to male colleagues (Baum, 2013). The gender pay gap issue is a controversial topic, some people suggest that the pay gap remains at women earning 18 per cent less whilst others argue that women are actually now earning 2 pence more than men in the hotel sector. The gender pay gap is said to be associated with the fact that women’s work is not as valuable as men’s and therefore isn’t worth the same amount of money. More steps are being taken however, to decrease this pay gap for the future so that women are no longer experiencing this discrimination. The barriers faced by women in terms of career progression are described as a ‘glass ceiling’ signifying the invisible barriers that prevent them from advancing in their careers. The balance of home and work life is a common theme in occupational gender segregation and is at the forefront of the absence of women in higher senior positions. Women are faced with many responsibilities outside of work and therefore taking on even more responsibility at work can become stressful and exhausting for them.

Although women workers are the ones most affected by occupational gender segregation, migrant women workers are particularly the most vulnerable. Migrant workers are very reliant upon in the hotel sector with 22 per cent of hotel workers being migrants. Women migrants typically work in the housekeeping department which is one of the most important functions of the hotel. However, they are still at the very bottom of the employment scale. They are susceptible to unfair treatment such as very low wages, long hours and discrimination as they don’t always know their employment rights. A lot of migrant housekeeping employees feel underappreciated in their job as although it is a crucial function of the hotel, their work is an invisible performance which is undervalued by society as a respectful career.

To change this prominence of occupational gender segregation in the hotel sector, there are certain measures that need to be taken in order to gain a balance of gender across all levels and job roles. There needs to be a greater support for women in the workplace in terms of help with childcare, encouragement from employers for equality, more value needs to be given to women’s work and more focus needs to be placed on training and development. As long as occupational segregation continues there will always be more opportunities for men in terms of higher paid positions with more responsibility.


Baum, T. (2013) International Perspectives on Women and Work in Hotels, Catering and Tourism. [Online] Geneva: International Labour Office. Available from:http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@gender/documents/publication/wcms_209867.pdf [Accessed 30th April 2017].

Campos-Soria, J.A., Marchante-Mera, A. and Ropero-García, M.A. (2011) Patterns of occupational segregation by gender in the hospitality industry. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 30(1) 91-102.
European Commission (2009) Gender segregation in the labour market Root causes, implications and policy responses in the EU. Luxembourg: European Commission.

Duffy, L., Kline, C., Mowatt, R., Chancellor, C. (2015) Women in Tourism: Shifting gender ideology in the DR. Annals of Tourism Research, 52:72-86

European Commission (2009) Gender segregation in the labour market Root causes, implications and policy responses in the EU. Luxembourg: European Commission.