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The Gender Equality Issues and The Opportunities in the UK Tourism and Hospitality Industry

Written by: Zhang, Yi

University: Lincoln


The aim of this paper is to investigate the gender equality issues in the UK tourism and hospitality industry and identifies the opportunities for companies accordingly.

Keywords, gender equality, glass ceiling, gender pay gap, women empowerment, feminine theory

Discussion Paper

Major organisations like International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Economic Forum and other large corporations have started to promote gender equality with the reason that it can provide benefits to businesses (Berik, 2017). Gender equality has been a hot topic in recent decades as inequality has been widely reported by media and activists (Boffey, 2017). The Gender Equality Index 2017 reported that gender equality at work in Europe, including the UK, had not been improved much between 2005 and 2015 (Kirton, 2017). However, According to the report “International Perspectives on Women and Work in Hotels, Catering and Tourism”, gender inequality is an issue in tourism and hospitality industry as the situations of female employees are far worse than male employees (GMA, 2013).

Women accounted for 47% of the UK entire workforce (BITC, 2018). The number of women full-time workers have been growing since 2013, increased by 146,000 and reached 8.82 millions as of December 2017. On the other hand, women part-time worker reached 6.29 millions, increased by 32,000 as compared to previous year (McGuinness, 2018). Therefore, it shows the more and more women are taking up full time jobs and employment proportion between men and women has been narrowing in recent decades.

The first gender equality issue in the UK is the inequality in job position between men and women in the workplace, which is known as the glass ceiling. Research found that women accounted for 26% of senior management positions but this figure drops to 20% if it does not take human resource positions into account (PwC, 2018). However, there are still many high profile successful women in travel industry, such as the former managing director of Virgin Holidays, Amanda Wills, the easyJet chief executive, Dame Carolyn McCall, and the IHG Europe’s chief executive Angela Brav (Travelweekly, 2017). Therefore, these role models show that women are capable of working at the top management level in tourism organisations.

The second gender equality issue in the UK is gender pay gap. According to Office for National Statistics (ONS), over three out of four UK companies pay their male employees more than female employees (Wisniewska, et al., 2018). Tourism and hospitality is the seventh worst industry in terms of gender pay gap (Witts, 2015). Women are generally doing unskilled, low-paid jobs in tourism industry and they are paid less than men (Cave & Kilic, 2010). According to the gender pay gap database service provided by Gov.uk, many tourism and hospitality companies pay more salary to men than women in terms of hourly rate in 2017/18 financial year (Gov.uk, 2018).

Gender equality is an ethical issue. CSR pyramid identified that ethics is one of the responsibilities of corporate social responsibility (CSR) (Carroll, 1991). A survey in the UK found that consumers increasingly support ethical companies in 2016 as compared to 2010 (Morgan Stanley, 2016). CSR strategy that addresses gender equality can help companies to improve corporate image and gain support from consumers who support ethical brands.

Radical feminism argues that patriarchy must be eliminated and rebuilt entirely (Gamble, 2006). Childcare is considered to be the key to reduce pay gap in the UK and it is the biggest barrier for women in workplace (Fraser, 2016; Peacock, 2013) and this is also supported by the tourism research of Tucker and Boonabaana (2012). Research confirmed that gender equality can be improved if childcare duties are shared equally by mother and father (Frith, 2016). One of the possible solutions is to suggest schools to extend opening hours to reduce burden for working parents.

Through empowerment, women are able to contribute to economic and social development by fully participating in the decisions that affect their companies and communities (Jucan & Jucan, 2013). Alonso-Almeida (2013) supports that women who are empowered with greater power are likely to perform better than men in tourism companies. It is important for tourism companies to proactively keep up with the trend of recognising diversity, including gender equality in order to make sure their organisations to sustain competitiveness. Companies should provide equal pay for both men and women for performing the same jobs.

Women have been struggling to achieve a balance between their careers and family lives. Providing flexible workplace for women is a win-win solution for companies in tourism industry because it can improve productivity in hotels (Guerrier & Lockwood, 1989), efficient deployment of human resource and positively influence motivation, customer services, employee retention and productivity in tourism companies (Travelweekly, 2009).

Lastly, this paper concluded that it is beneficial for tourism and hospitality companies to achieve gender equality as it will improve their brand reputation as well as financial performance.


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