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


An investigation into gender discrimination against female tourism workers in Latin America.

Written by: Viktoraviciute, Kamile

University: Lincoln


The theme of this investigation focuses on Latin American females working in the tourism industry and the difficulties they face with working in the industry, including pay gaps, gender discrimination and lower positions and how they find empowerment through tourism entrepreneurship.

Keywords: Gender Roles, Sexism, Gender Norms, Gender Equality, Workplace Equality

Latin America shows an increase of tourism activity which has led to increase of tourism workers, especially female tourism workers (Ferreira Freire Guimaraes and Silva, 2016) which has led to an increase of work based discrimination, a lack of integration and diversity in the local labour market (Billing, 2009).

Gender roles affect female workforce and their occupied positions as gender norms influence employers and employees alike. The society’s construct of gender arguably classifies men as being independent and competitive while women are being classified as emotional and dependent which has led to men occupying the majority of leadership positions and women doing more emotional and household related jobs (Beall and Sternberg (1993). Babb’s (2012) and Sinclair’s (1997) research shows that women in Latin America make a lower proportion of the workforce and their job roles are usually related to female stereotypes. Sinclair (1997) explores the phenomena of nuclear households which creates difficulties for women making independent decisions as they are expected to take care of the children while the man is the head and provider of the household which also creates high responsibility for males. Jeffrey et al. (2015) argues that gender norms can create hyper masculinization of workplaces, therefore the improvement of gender representations could benefit the employees and increase the employee pool. Tamborini (2007) states however, that females make up a high percentage of tourism workers in Mexican cities.

Jun and Yoon (2014) argue that female job roles are often typecast where they are required to do more emotional work e.g. hostess, receptionist. Masculine features are often being privileged in work environment due to assumed stereotypes and many jobs are being sex-types as feminine and masculine. It has been found that that gender intersects with status to structure and legitimate ethnic inequality, within the community and households (Babb, 2012).

Chant and Craske (2003) argue that in the 90s women were mostly employed in service industries and in informal positions which resulted in increased workplace discrimination e.g. unequal pay. Ferreira Freire Guimarães and Silva (2016) research concentrates on pay inequalities in Brazil which is arguably due to women seen as being less valuable in the workplace due to perceived gender stereotypes. Sinclair (1997) explores the case study of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and states that women made a lower proportion of the workforce, were in less prestigious positions and earned less money than their male counterparts.

Sexualisation of female workers affects the job supply in Latin American countries as in interviews from Padilla et al. (2012) research showed that tourism in certain locations is associated with leisure which has led to manager demands of displayed sexuality of workers such as bartenders, waitresses for an increase in tourist spending. It could be argued that in some Latin American destinations, as the reliance in tourism is high, the tourist controls the demand for certain stereotypical job roles due to perceived stereotypes or the destinations image e.g. sex tourism workers in Sosua wearing traditional outfits to satisfy tourist expectations.

Some locations in Latin America have opposing views as they are trying to restrain female sexuality and tourism, especially highly religious countries and locations with “macho” ideals (Duffy’s et al, 2015). There has been speculations that religion in Latin America affects gender roles due to religious figures serving as role models (Careaga-Perez, 2017; Sinclair, 1997; Duffy et al, 2017) and research showed that some Latin American males think it is wrong for females to work due to religious stereotyping (Duffy’s et al, 2015).
However, with workplace discrimination and a lack of representation many tools of empowerment were initiated such as artesian cooperatives where the women were able to control the production and sales of crafts, conferences, movements and entrepreneurship initiatives such as BDS micro-entrepreneurship program in Lima, Peru (Valdivia, 2015). The Zapatistas movement involves Mayan women’s rights and it was used as a political and economic platform to increase visibility in different fields and to assert their rights and roles in the community. It also helped to develop entrepreneur schemes for Mayan women in Mexico and helped women to reject gender norms when it comes to tourism work by providing the women with more independence with schemes that allowed them to be the producers and sellers of their own products. Entrepreneur activities have helped Latin American women to take initiative on their independence and also gain business related skills and increase small community development, however the numbers of female entrepreneurs still remain low (Lalangui et al, 2016).


Babb, F.E. (2012) Theorizing Gender, Race, and Cultural Tourism in Latin America: A View from Peru and Mexico. Latin American Perspectives, 39(6) 36-46.

Chant. S. and Craske N. (2003) Gender in Latin America. Great Britain: Latin American Bureau.

Tamborini C.R. (2007) Work, Wages and Gender in Export-Oriented Cities: Global Assembly
versus International Tourism in Mexico. Bulletin of Latin American Research, 26 24-50.

Gender discrimination against Latin American women employed in tourism workplaces

Written by: Hill, Megan

University: Lincoln

I have chosen to comment on this paper due to the similarities with my conference paper on the topic of occupational gender segregation in the hotel industry. Although my paper focused on females employed in the hotel sector, I like how this paper focuses in on a certain geographic location rather than just females in general. As different genders, dominate different roles amongst different cultures (Burrell Et al, 1997).

I feel that the author could have provided a broader understanding of how this gender inequality has come to be. Although the increase of tourism activity has been discussed as the main factor I think there could be a few other contributing factors which have led to this divide amongst genders. For instance, Duffy Et al (2015) explains how gender roles were found to exist years ago amongst the catholic society where men were the ‘breadwinners’ and women were there to take care of ‘domestic duties’.

The author has provided clear evidence of the factors which Latin American women are facing in the workplace such as the pay gap, gender discrimination and lower positioned jobs (Baum, 2013). The reasons why these have appeared have also been clearly demonstrated, and these reflect those found in my paper as being related to women being placed in jobs which provide caring responsibilities, leaving men in the positons of power.

It is interesting to see that tourists themselves maybe somewhat creating the demand for these gender specific roles in some destinations. So although the demand for tourism to some destinations is high, this brings with it disadvantages for female workers whom are being relied upon to fill these stereotypical job roles that are needed, such as housekeeping jobs. It is great to see that the author has provided some insight into the tools of empowerment which are being put in place in Latin America, which are working to try and combat this gender inequality.

In conclusion this piece of work displays some good clear research and is written well, clearly presenting the main focus of the paper throughout. The author discussed the barriers which are faced by Latin American women in tourism workplaces along with the empowerment schemes that have been put in place to combat this. This paper could have perhaps provided some personal recommendations for the tourism industry in the future to try and stop this gender inequality. However, the author has picked up on the main key points and overall has provided a deeper understanding as to how gender discrimination is presented in Latin America amongst female tourism workers.


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].

Burrell, J., Manfredi, S., Rollin, H., Prize, L., Stead, L., 1997. Equal opportunities for women employees in the hospitality industry: A comparison between France, Italy, Spain and the UK. International Journal of Hospitality Management. 16(2), 161-179.

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