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


Exploring female leadership roles in the Tourism & Hospitality industry and barriers they face.

Written by: Kinnaird, Hayley

University: Lincoln


This paper attempts to discuss and conceptualize women progressing into leadership and senior roles within the Tourism and Hospitality industry. The subject as a whole is under conceptualized and women are highly underrepresented in the industry even though they make up majority of the workforce. This paper discusses the barriers they face in progressing up the career ladder and how these can be overcome overall using solely secondary research.


Tourism, Hospitality, Gender, Inequality, Barriers, Leadership.


The tourism and hospitality industry is an extensive industry and is continually expanding, years ago men were labelled as the ‘travellers’ and women would be known as ‘hostesses’. The hospitality industry is based around providing service and care for customers and often women are found representing these service roles more than men with the impression women may attract more clients which results in more revenue for the industry. (Sinclair, 1997). Overall the industry had total revenues of $327.2 Billion in 2015, which represented a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 % between 2011 and 2015.

Women account for an extortionate amount of 70% of the workforce in the industry,
Although there is a clear segregation between men and women in the sector, which will be discussed, when the barriers are acknowledged. When looking at women in senior positions such as managers and directors there is a extensive under-representation of women in particular with them holding less than 40% of managerial positions and less than 20% of general management roles. Baum (2015) suggests that women are often found in roles such as Bar and waiting staff, waitresses, cleaners or house keeping roles. Additionally women are often found to be front-of-house jobs were customer facing is a must and ‘person-to-person’ skills are prevailing requirements and often women are concentrated in lower skilled jobs in the industry (Duncan 2007).

A major barrier that women feel they have to attempt to overcome is sex discrimination and stereotyping in the workplace, this happens often and can result in stress and other causes in an individual leaving them feeling uncomfortable and without a voice in the workplace. Another barrier women often face is work-family conflict and poor childcare support which can reflect badly on them in the workforce as this often leads to them only being able to work part-time hours or they may not be as flexible as other workers. Moreover sexual harassment is often a barrier women have to face in general work but has also been found to be an issue with women managers also.

After conducting secondary research the main findings and gaps in knowledge are that although times are changing and the industry and world is becoming more modernised, gender inequality and women in leadership roles is still an on-going problem to this day. As mentioned above there is not enough research done on the subject area therefore the problem is not known and people possibly employers are not educated or made aware enough for people to realise the issues. (People 1st, 2016).

Another finding is that employers often are looking for ‘cheap’ employees as they have a high staff turnover they often want the lower-skilled positions filled such as cleaners and waiting staff in which these often end up being women or migrant workers. (Baum, 2015). Women 1st (2010) suggests that women can often be promoted in brochures portrayed as waitresses or entertainers which may be the reason for employers often expecting women to be in these job roles, which takes us back to the issue of women often seen to be hostesses time ago, have people not necessarily changed their views or modernised enough from these times. Moreover another issue and finding is that even when women do progress with training they are not always necessarily always guaranteed a increased pay and that men’s wages are typically often higher than women’s which is an underlying issue in the industry.

To conclude this paper it is important to acknowledge that there are clear gaps in knowledge and the need for more recognition is a necessity to help overcome the barriers women face. To help overcome these factors there should be more progression opportunities available and women to speak up in order for their opinions to be heard, this will help women to drive the industry more. In order of collaborative engagement in the issues further evaluation and monitoring will ne needed to meaningfully build on the imperative to unlock the potential of women within the talent pool and tourism and hospitality industry. Additionally if issues are addressed and are not overlooked women will feel more satisfied and also they could help introduce a wider range of skills in the workplace. (Baum et al, 2013). Lastly if employers increased wages for women and provided equal opportunities and rights, the industry will instantly be made more attractive and may result in more women wanting a career in the industry. (People 1st, 2016).


Baum, T. (2015) Women in Tourism & Hospitality: Unlocking the Potential in the Talent Pool. [Online] Available from: https://www.diageo.com/Lists/Resources/Attachments/2706/Women_in_Hospitality___Tourism_White_Paper.pdf [Accessed 19th March 2017].

People 1st (2016) Skills and Workforce Profile Hospitality and Tourism Available from https://blackboard.lincoln.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-1578433-dt-content-rid-2803953_2/courses/TOU3098M-1617/Skills%20and%20workforce%20profile%202016.pdf [Accessed on 20th March 2017].

Sinclair, T. M. (1997) Gender, Work and Tourism. London and New York: Routledge.

Women discrimination and empowerment in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Written by: Viktoraviciute, Kamile

University: Lincoln

This paper relates to my discussion as I have chosen the theme of Latin American female tourism workers and the inequalities they face in their workplaces, such as low positions in companies compared to their male counterparts. The author’s summary concentrates on a broader variety of nationalities, however from the research summary, it is noted that similar problems are brought up e.g. female typically occupying more emotive labour positions, which then creates a barrier between genders and tourism employment which affects gender and leadership positions in organizations. Another occurring similarity between the research papers was the discussed pay gap between men and women, with men typically earning more for the same job, or women not being promoted or given a pay rise after training.

Discrimination of women in tourism and hospitality workplaces are similar, however certain countries or continents lack opportunities for independence and education due to certain gender norms which are created through many cultural and traditional factors, which disallow women to part-take in more leadership oriented roles or discourage them from entering the entrepreneurship field. The author paper concentrates on a broader aspect, however the reasons for women being disadvantaged in those fields relates back to my conference paper.

In the conclusion, the author agrees that there should be more opportunities and platforms for female tourism workers to overcome the barriers, increase the labour pool etc. Relating this back to my own research paper, my discussion takes on similar points made, especially about women empowerment in workplaces, gender attitudes and availability of entrepreneurship schemes which allow Latin American women to be more independent.

The summarised conference paper displays clear investigations into the topic of tourism and hospitality female workers and their barriers of career progression in the industry. The author made clear points about the barriers that women are facing in the industry and the difficulties of workplace role segregation, inclination of promotions for female workers and assignation of gendered job roles in the tourism and hospitality sector, which raised discussions on opportunities, empowerment and progression of women tourism workers.


Baum., T, Duncan., T and David, G. (2013) The mobilities of hospitality work: An exploration of issues and debates. Annals of Tourism Research, 41(1) pp 1-19.

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.

Moswete, N., & Lacey, G. (2014). “Women cannot lead”: Empowering women through cultural tourism in Botswana. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 23(4), 600-617.