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Promoting hospitality and tourism on International Women's Day

By Tom Baum - Posted on 6 March 2014

Professor Tom Baum, ahead of the inaugural ‘Women in Hospitality and Tourism in Asia’ conference, and International Women’s Day, looks at the findings from his research paper on women in tourism and hospitality…

The hospitality and tourism industry offers a workplace with fantastic opportunities for talented women to play a variety of roles, from skilled technical through to leadership positions in both corporate operations and smaller enterprises. At the same time, women also face real challenges in this workplace, reflecting a combination of complex organisational, operational and cultural factors.

Focusing on the opportunities for women in hospitality and tourism, there is a need to ensure that women have the opportunity to fulfil their potential as innovators and leaders in what is, arguably, the fastest-growing sector in the global economy. While average female participation in the sector is 55.5% at a global level and up to 70% at a regional level in Asia, increasing recruitment, retention and promotion of talented women for technical and managerial leadership positions will be necessary to meet the future skills and productivity requirements of the sector.

Through my research, it’s clear to me there are disparities in the sector with men taking more than their fair share of roles in preferred positions with higher salaries. One of the reasons for this is that the HCT (hospitality, catering and tourism) sector imposes unsocial working hours on employees and can make shift patterns unpredictable, both of which are difficult to reconcile with family and care responsibilities, the bulk of which still falls to women.

There is no simple panacea to solve the issue of fewer women in higher level roles in the HCT industry. To a significant extent, what occurs in the workplace with respect to gender roles and responsibilities is subject to external cultural, economic and political influences. At the same time, demographic and skills changes in many countries mean that it is imperative that the HCT is both creative and mould-breaking in its use and deployment of all sources of talent.

My study, however, highlights ways forward to change these career barriers and the mind-sets that perpetuate them and these include:

• Social dialogue among all parties including trade unions
• Active promotion of opportunities for females to work in traditionally male roles and vice versa
• HCT enterprises removing obstacles to female participation through the provision of better social and physical security and secure staff accommodation
• Combatting sexual harassment though visible and applied policies
• Providing more flexible working conditions and shifts
• Offering wider childcare provision
• Formulating career-entry routes and ladders for mature entrants, career changers and women returning to work in order to limit opportunities to low-skills areas of work

Tom Baum is a professor in the Department of Human Resource Management. He has spent many years researching employment and the work force in the tourism and hospitality industry. Professor Baum will be the opening keynote speaker at the inaugural ‘Women in Hospitality and Tourism in Asia’ Conference on March 7, organised by Diageo. He will share his findings and recommendations with over 200 delegates on the roles that women play within the industry, based on his research for the International Labour Organisation on “International Perspectives on Women and Work in Hotels, Catering and Tourism”.

Do you think enough is being done to promote equality in the hospitality and tourism industry? Perhaps you could share your experience? Let us know in the comments below…

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