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The Limited Opportunities Women are Faced with in the Tourism Workplace in a World with Gender Segregation

The Limited Opportunities Women are Faced with in the Tourism Workplace in a World with Gender Segregation
Author: Yasmin Cook
2 Commentries
Abstract: This research investigates the experiences women within the tourism workplace have and the issues they face. Segregation is a major concern in the tourism industry and does not go unnoticed – women face pay gaps, gender stereotyping, objectifying behaviour and harassment. There are many limited opportunities that females encounter which include social norms in various cultures and the lack of education and discrimination received; the lifestyle many women have as they get older regarding pregnancy, children and the flexibility jobs offer.

Key Words: Occupational Segregation; Limited Opportunities; Pay Gap; Stereotyping; Cultural Perspectives; Aviation; Flight Attendants; Pakistan

Gender inequality has been a social construct since the beginning of time and although we are in the 21st century it is still present and imposes challenges for women within the workplace. Segregation regarding gender can be seen within the tourism industry, despite 70% of their workforce being women. Nevertheless, women are mostly hired in poor paid and unskilful jobs, such as cleaners; whilst, more men are given managerial roles - reinforcing the gender stereotyping of roles within the industry (Baum, 2013).

Aviation is a segment within the industry which offers the most noticeable trends for gender stereotyping. Ryanair offers insightful figures that provide evidence to the discrimination they impose – only 1.44% of pilots are women whilst 69% of flight attendants are, similarly, their average pilot salary is £65,838 and £18,333 is the annual pay for cabin crew. Most jobs within airline companies require highly skilled staff; however, people do not consider a flight attendant’s role to be skilful, explaining the significant pay gap they are left with. Other ways women are discriminated against is the requirements of appearance needed to be a successful candidate; masked as safety precautions women have to be of certain height, weight and should look a certain way to be considered as a flight attendant. Nevertheless, it is not just the companies that employ this shocking behaviour but passengers too, flight attendants have been called ‘trolley dollies’, asked to ‘join the mile high club’ and are sometimes sexualised ever since the media phenomenon, for instance the music video Toxic by Britney Spears has had some impacts on the perceptions of these workers. This mistreatment and disrespect create negative working environments for women and do not help with the strenuous work they actually provide (Rinaldi and Salerno, 2019).

There is a clear correlation between the employment rates of women in more economically developed countries (MEDCs) compared to low economically developed countries (LEDCs), for example: 2.1% of Egypt’s tourism workforce are women whilst 55% of Czech Republics are. Some communities provide more difficulty for women to be triumphant regarding work: 132 million girls are out of an education: Therefore, 132 million women in the future will find it tougher to get a well-paid occupation and escape the low-skilled jobs tourism offers; reinforcing this is the notion that even when girls are able to receive an education, certain cultures only teach them domesticated roles like cooking, cleaning and caring. Research shows that Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo place within the top 5 of ranking with the largest gender gap – all of these countries, with the exception of the Democratic Republic of Congo all follow the religion of Islam. Whilst Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Nicaragua all practice Christianity and have the lowest gender gap. This implies that religion and cultures have some sort of encouragement on the segregation of women (Sadaquat and Sheikh, 2011).

More focus on Pakistan shows that 76% of women are unemployed, and 3.2% of those who are employed work within the tourism industry and are issued 41.3% less pay. The societal gender bias of Pakistan is the highest in the world, with an unfortunate percentage of 99.81%, this is down to the political, educational and occupational barriers Pakistani women are against. Tourism requires a basic literacy rate, but with over 22 million children – majority being female - without an education there is a low likelihood of them receiving employment for the industry (Sadaquat and Sheikh, 2011).

Tourism also has low statistics for the retainment of women compared to men. Three key reasons for this have been examined. The first factor that impacts women retention is the little chance of progression women are offered: 72.2% of part-time hotel employees are women; however, there are limitations to the progression opportunities for part-time workers due to most higher ranked job require more hours and information or training is not offered. Many females cannot work additional hours due to family priorities and childcare, benefits such as Universal Credit also make part-time employment more attractive. This brings us to our second reason – starting a family: Between 30 and 34 (on average) women have their first child, after maternity leave childcare is expensive and the low wages offered probably would go directly on childcare. 56.2% of women unfortunately have to make changes to their employment to make way for childcare. More shockingly, employers consider mothers less of an asset to them and therefore promotions are unlikely. The final main point for low retention rates is the harassment and bullying women face at work: As mentioned, in the tourism industry, flight attendants are sexualised, and holiday representatives are often harassed on a daily basis if they work for club 18-30 (Rinaldi and Salerno, 2019).

Women should not still have unfair treatment due to their gender; this is a social implication that needs to be abolished for the benefits of our future daughters. Women are not just cleaners, they are managers, owners, and bosses.


Baum, T. (2013) International Perspectives on Women and Work in Hotels, Catering and Tourism. Working Paper 1. Switzerland: ILO Publications.

Rinaldi, A. and Salerno, I. (2019) The Tourism Gender Gap and its Potential Impact on the Development of the Emerging Countries. Quality and Quantity, 54, 1465-1477.

Sadaquat, M.B. and Sheikh, Q.A. (2011) Employment Situation of Women in Pakistan. International Journal of Social Economics, 38(2).
A Commentary on: The Limited Opportunities Women are Faced with in the Tourism Workplace in a World with Gender Segregation.
Author: Lorene Natividad
This particular study is interesting as it raises awareness to societies’ current situation, even though this problem has been entrenched since the early 1900s. Therefore, this issue requires further action from employers and employees respectively to prevent unfair treatment in the workplace. Furthermore, this is a highly relevant topic as it gives the audience awareness of the unfairness encountered by workers in the tourism industry.

In particular, the aviation sector is a highly competitive sector and a mass employment generator yet it comes with the challenges of inequality and unfairness in the form of wage gaps between workers. However, despite flight attendants being less skilful than pilots, it may be said that there is a bigger requirement for interpersonal skills within the role of a flight attendant, as opposed to that which is required within a generic tourism occupation, such as housekeeping. This inequality is also further echoed within the hospitality sector as there are 25% gender wage gaps for menial occupations (Gilberth, 2019). On average, women earn £12,322 per year as opposed to men of £15,459, illustrating the unfairness and the portrayal that women are looked down upon and men are seen superior instead (Gilberth, 2019). Despite the occupation being in geographical areas, clerical, part-time or full-time employed, it is not acknowledged and still occurs regardless (Campos-Soria et al., 2009).

Occupational segregation is often a feminist discrimination which depresses female workers, gender wage gaps are evident and although high-quality skills are required, employers think lightly of this, when considering employing men for the same role. Gender wage gaps in women demonstrates the unfairness and inequality, especially for menial occupations. Men are paid higher as opposed to women as stated above, as they are stereotyped to have higher positions or are able to progress further, whereas women are looked down upon on having menial occupations.

Overall, this is a particularly interesting topic that brought awareness of the mistreatment and unfairness in the tourism workforce, this gives the potential to be explored further and expose further awareness. It is unfortunate for such workers to face such challenges in a highly competitive industry, despite having menial occupations to acquire a livelihood. The overall focus of this chosen topic is interesting as the industry itself is embodied within gender relations that are fascinating to explore, even though they are diverse and complex in nature (Kinnaird et al., 1995, 5).

Campos-Soria, J.A., Ortega-Aguaza, B. and Ropero-Garcia, M.A. (2009) Gender segregation and wage difference in the hospitality industry. Tourism Economics, 15(4), 847-866. Available from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.5367/000000009789955152 [accessed 08 June 2021].
Gilberth, J. (2019) Hospitality industry has 25% gender pay gap for low-income jobs. Available from https://employeebenefits.co.uk/hospitality-25-gender-gap/ [accessed 08 June 2021].
Kinnaird., V. Kothari, U., and Hall., D. (eds) (1995) Tourism: Gender Perspectives. West Sussex: John Wiley and Sons LTD, 1-28.
A commentary of ‘the limited opportunities women are faced with in the tourism workplace in a world of gender segregation’.
Author: Leah Williams
Personally, this discussion paper promoted a particular interest as my individual paper was predominantly examining the inequalities and challenges women face contributing to the gender pay gap within hospitality. It was insightful and fascinating to read aspects of this relating to and affecting the tourism industry.

Interestingly, this paper highlights that aviation is an element of the tourism industry that has only 1.44% of women occupying the role of pilots, revealed within the statistics of Ryanair. It was also further explained that the factors contributing to the existing pay gap is the stereotyping of women, leading them into lower paid roles such as flight attendants, also being perceived as lower-skilled and adding to preconceptions of women. This was found to be an interesting aspect of this paper to further discuss.

Additional research has revealed that there is an underrepresentation of literature for understanding the underlining reasonings of personal career decisions of women fulfilling the occupations of pilots. However, it has been explored that those possible factors influencing such decisions may also be lack of funding, training, and most importantly women role models, causing women to perceive themselves as unsuited to becoming a pilot. Therefore, it is evident that women pilots are of the belief that certain barriers and preconceptions must be overcome to be accepted into an overwhelmingly male profession (Mitchell et al., 2006). Based on this research, it could be argued that stereotypes and the male domination of higher roles such as pilots contributing to gender pay gap affecting women, can lead to self-esteem issues influencing the self-perception and capabilities of women individually within the tourism industry. Furthermore, the argument of this causing self-imposed barriers that was presented within my personal paper, could also be a possibility in the case of the aviation sector. With women individually holding back from career advancements, as existing inequalities/ limited opportunities of the tourism industry is compounding this issue (Boone et al., 2013).

Furthermore, this paper exposes many limited opportunities that women face and issues that contributed to gender segregation of a wide context, presenting urgence of dealing with such inequalities. McCarthy et al. (2015) reveals that improvements have been made within the aviation sector for example, implementing gender equality regulations and policies. This research also recommends mentoring programmes regarding retention, career progression/promotion, and the introduction of family and women friendly recruitment. This research is relevant to other barriers such as work-life balance and ‘family priorities’ that women face that were also discussed within this paper, to further progress to the achievement of gender equality (McCarthy et al.,2015).


Boone, J., Veller, T., Nikolaveva, K., Keith, M., Kefgen, K., Houran, J. (2013) Rethinking a glass ceiling in the hospitality industry. Cornell Hospitality Quaterly, 54 (3), pp. 230-239.

McCarthy, F., Budd, L. and Ison, S. (2015). Gender on the flightdeck: Experiences of women commercial airline pilots in the UK. Journal of air transport management, 47, pp.32-38.

Mitchell, J., Kristovics, A., Vermeulen, L. (2006). Gender issues in aviation: Pilot perceptions and employment relations. International Journal of Employment Studies, 14(1), pp.35-59.