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Essay on Career Advancement of Women in the Hospitality Industry Essay

Essay Topic:

Introduction
Men have always been the financial providers while women have been home
keepers and care-givers. Changes have taken place due to globalization and more women
are entering the work field. Nevertheless, it is seen that women have always faced gender
discrimination in any career that they have tried to pursue. Be it as a teacher or a nurse, as
corporate managers or scientists, or the hospitality sector, the reasons remain the same for
all women. Women definitely have a dual role to play (taking care of the family and the
work place) and to avoid the role conflict and reduce the anxiety and stress, women
prefer business or flexible schedules and refrain from accepting higher responsibilities at
work. The hospitality sector is particularly demanding because of irregular hours of work.
The Equal Opportunities Commission warns that gender equality is still generations away
and may take 20 to 25 years to close the gap (Adfero, 2007).

Rationale for research
The hospitality sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK. Studies
assess under-representation of women managers and gender discrimination issues at
workplace. A survey on the UK hospitality industry saw a total of 2,042 respondents out
of which 570 were women (FHRAI, 2002). The survey revealed that more women were
working in part-time positions than men were. While the catering and hotel industry in
the UK are focusing on attracting women in the industry, and while the catering industry
makes up for 68% women, women are found in the back of the house management –
administration and housekeeping. Some associate this with lack of education while others

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link it to the gender issue or even lack of interest by the women themselves. Women are
seldom found in managerial positions and based on this the research question would be:
What are the factors affecting women’s career advancement in the hospitality
industry?

Worldwide tourism is an important sector for women who make up to 46% of the
tourism labor force (Vargas & Aguilar, 2002). There is a significant vertical and
horizontal gender segregation of the labor market. Women all over the world have always
faced discrimination in terms of management positions and levels of pay. Cobb & Dunlop
(1999) agree that the gender gap still exists in the arte of promotions and the women are
at a disadvantage (cited by Zhong, 2006). While the scene is gradually changing, the pace
of change is ‘painfully slow’ (BBC, 2007) as Zhong (2006) also observes that women
represented 20% to 40% of management positions in about 60 countries (ILO) but they
continue to be underrepresented in management positions compared to their overall
employment. Burke and Vinnicombe (2006) contend that aging workforce and fewer new
entrants has resulted in shortage of qualified leaders, forcing organizations to utilize and
develop talents all of its employees. Under the circumstances they cannot afford to
artificially limit the career possibilities of women. This itself implies that women are
capable but are being denied the opportunities.

There are three types of transitions impacting working women at their work
places – career-focused transitions, life-cycle induced transitions and workplace or
market-induced transitions (Womenomics, 2006). Women change jobs twice as often as

men, which is a reason for concern and warrant research. They even switch jobs between
sectors and prefer a job where they can make a difference. They prefer jobs which offer
facility for skill development to increase their employability. Studies suggest that when
women do get access to functional roles in their current employment, they either stall in
their career advancement or move to other employers.

A survey conducted by The Caterer revealed that women are not entering the
managerial posts but are opting for traditionally female roles (FHRAI, 2002). The
Restaurant Association claims that they do not employ based on gender but on merit and
they feel there is significant advancement for women to rise up the ladder in managerial
positions. The issue of diversity can lend sustainability and the organizations have to go
beyond discrimination. Organizations benefit in different ways like culture, change and
learning based engagement with managing inequality and difference as there is enough
evidence to prove that organizational culture is a major impediment to women’s progress
into senior management (Mann, 1995).

Ninety percent of the people employed as chambermaids, flight attendants, sales
personnel and cleaners are women (Vargas & Aguilar, 2002). The abundance of full-time,
part-time, seasonal, temporary and casual work available in the tourism sector is a key
attraction by women, and is preferred mostly by mothers of young children carers, semiretired
women and students (LDA, 2003). They preferred the workplace flexibility and
the positive impact it has on family life. Women tend to value the joy, contentment and
happiness derived from being with the family, which gives them sense of fulfillment and
positively affects their professional lives as well. Fulfillment relates to learning and
growing which provides sense of confidence. The fact that women prefer part-time work

is corroborated by the statistics of the first three months of 2002 which shows that men in
full time employment were double the number of women, while women as part-time
workers were four times that of men engaged in part-time employment (Grundy &
Jamieson, 2002). Zong however finds that women lack the education, skills and work
experience necessary to be an executive or a manager.

Management diversity is defined as the proportion of women among the highestranking
CEOs in firms and on boards of directors (Smith, Smith & Verner, 2006).
Female managers are supposed to be best qualified in terms of education for top
management posts and to be on the board of directors. Women have a better
understanding of certain segments and this could lend creativity and innovation to the
work place. Women on board of directors have positive impact on firm performance.
There are other suggestions that women differ from men in their aspirations and
expectations in career; they also differ in the definition of success. Women have also
been blamed for being emotional as there are differences in the expectations and
acceptance of emotional expression (Zhong, 2007). Some researchers observe that
women change their life choices after reaching middle management level (Cornelius &
Skinner, 2006). These observations basically stem from men and employers as a means to
discourage women from aspiring for the senior level management positions.
The typical ‘gender pyramid’ is prevalent – lower levels and occupations with few
career development opportunities available to women (Vargas & Aguilar, 2002) while a
report in HRMID (2006) confirms that women are victims of discrimination is evident
from the fact women have filed high profile suits successfully against their employer for
discrimination based on their gender. Women definitely have a dual role to play but this

can be overcome by creating more quality part-time roles to increase the number of
women in senior roles. This is essential in view of the fact that businesses are
disadvantaged by not selecting the best executives from the largest talent pool, reports
Treanor (2007) of The Guardian. Companies continue to spend heavy amounts in
repeated recruitments and training and they could save on this through reduced attrition.
Feyerherm and Vick (2006) suggest that re-examining the corporate culture could
enhance values like openness, mutual respect and continuous learning. The culture
change should also include work-life effectiveness programs or flexible work options
work (Womenomics, 2006). A study by Cornell University revealed that stock of
companies that went public with more women in top management teams performed better
in both short and long run than those with no or few women at the helm of affairs
(Corporate Board, 1999). The survey further revealed that having more women on top
executive teams had positive and significant effect on both stock-price growth and
earnings-per-share growth.

Research also suggests that London relies a great deal on migrant labor and more
so in the hospitality sector where the women experience downward social mobility
(Evans et al., 2005). Women have been found to be better employees because they make
a better team or more suited to ‘people-oriented work’ but the women find that ‘tourism
does not offer a livable wage’ in London (LDA, 2003). It may be ‘good for a second
income’ and hence more women are found in the sector than men as Evans et al., also
confirm that the lowest rates of pay were found in the London’s catering industry.
Sexual harassment, including unwanted attention or intimidation of a sexual
character is widespread in the hotel, tourism and the catering industry. A study of 502

working women in Luxemburg aged between 16 and 50 years in the hospitality industry
were reported to be the sector most affected (Hoel & Einarsen, 2003). In the UK bullying
and harassment were reported by 24.2% of the respondents. Waiters were most prone to
sexual harassment and the most common acts of harassment were obscene language and
jokes, and sexually suggestive comments. Mainly women in junior positions experience
sexual harassment which demonstrates that it ahs to do with both gender and power
issues. With low levels of education, they are less confident than other employees when
dealing with difficult people in positions of power. Apart from this, irregular working
hours, night shifts, dress code and a suggestive physical environment also make them
prone to sexual harassment. Being exposed to unwanted sexually related attention is
considered to be part of the job (Hoel & Einarsen, 2003). A study of British Hotel
employees concluded that the hotel is not a rational environment where there is
agreement over social norms or acceptable behavior between customers and staff.
Review of the literature suggests that there could be several factors affecting the
career advancement of women in the hospitality industry. These include differences in
traits, for example, being emotional, gender bias, woman’s home-making responsibility,
sexual harassment, lack of educational opportunities, lack of skills, availability of parttime
work, availability of diverse career opportunities. Based on these, the research
would be conducted.

The purpose of the research is to determine the factors that affect the career
advancement of women in the hospitality sector. As such the research will be based on
two types of data.

In quantitative analysis data is collected through mail questionnaires, interviews
and published statistics (Gable, 1994). Self-completion questionnaires would help to
determine the individual’s view of the career. This method of data collection allows the
ability for unambiguous quantitative data to be collected (Redmond & Griffith, 2003).
The format will be kept relatively simple and straightforward as there is little control over
the respondents’ interpretation of questions. Online surveys will be conducted as internet
has become a very popular means of gathering data. It permits quicker answers because
respondents can fill and send the questionnaire easily. The response rate is quite high. It
also allows an easy territorial and geographical coverage. Random sampling technique
would be applied here once the databases of employees at different travel agencies and
hotels have been collected. About 200 emails would be sent out as it is expected that 25%
may not respond or there may be delayed response.

Quantitative data would further be collected through focus group interviews.
Focus-groups are effective in providing information on why people think the way they
do. This has certain advantages even over the personal interviews as participants tend to
be more comfortable and natural. Besides, they influence and are influenced by others
just as they are in real life (Redmond & Griffith, 2003). Focus groups are open yet guided
and hence it would help to collect data on how women feel and think of their careers and
the workplace. Four different focus group interviews would be conducted at four different
hotels using the cluster sampling technique and this would be at the respective hotel
premises.

Difficulties may arise in scheduling the focus-groups interviews but these would
be overcome by contacting the front office manager or some other senior woman in the
respective hotel. Collection of database for emails may also be a problem which would be
obtained through the labour office. The ethical norms would be adhered to through out
the research process.
Word count: 358 words
Total word count: 2006

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