Tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world and is expected to continue to grow over the next decades. According to WTTC (2013) the travel and tourism industry generated more than 8% of the EU’s GDP in 2012 (with a total contribution of USD 1,390.8 bn) and provided employment to some 9.1% of the total labour force (creating 20,020,500 jobs); both contributions are forecast to rise to more than 10% in 2023. Worldwide, these numbers amount to more than 100 million jobs and to a USD 6.5 trillion contribution to the global economy. Therefore, tourism is notably an increasingly important source of income and employment opportunities, often regarded as a panacea for underprivileged groups, such as women (de Kadt, 1979). In fact, this is a female dominated industry, since their participation in tourism employment is higher than in the workforce in general (Hemmati, 2000; NDP-GEU, 2001).

However, the nature and conditions of the employment generated should be considered, since it often reinforces inequalities (Jordan, 1997; de Kadt, 1979). Employment in the tourism field is often concentrated in typically female domains, which are undervalued, since tasks rely on skills considered natural, such as taking care of others or preparing meals (Purcell, 1997). Tourism jobs tend thus to be dead-end jobs, offering few chances of career progression (Hemmati, 2000). Thus, it is a sector with a marked horizontal and vertical gender segregation (EC, 2004; Parrett, 2004; Hemmati, 2000; Costa et al., 2011). It is also a sector that tends to exploit traditional gender roles in recruitment and that very often relies on stereotyped images of women to attract tourists (Jordan, 1997; Hemmati, 2000; Swain, 1993).

In Portugal, results from the first study developed by the research team – Gentour I – indicate that although women hold the majority of higher education degrees in tourism studies, only a few of them reach top-level positions within organisations (Costa et al., 2011a e 2011b). In fact, some studies provide evidence that companies which have more women in their top boards perform better financially and organisationally that strictly male-dominated companies (Desvaux et al., 2007). Concerning the gender pay gap, whereas this indicator has stagnated in the overall economy, it has increased in the tourism sector. In addition, it is one of the sectors with the widest pay gap: women earn on average 26.3% less than men (Costa et al., 2011a).

The comprehensive set of results which derived from this research point out that the tourism sector is not being able to capitalize on the qualified human resources available and that the difficulties in balancing work and family life has been the major obstacle to women’s vertical mobility in organisations. Women are underrepresented at all levels of management and do not (easily) reach top-management positions, evidencing the labour market failure to fully and effectively make use of the available human capital.

Since women are better qualified, as they hold the majority of graduate and postgraduate degrees in tourism related courses (Costa et al., in print), this situation raises ethical, social and economic concerns. Are the most competitive companies more committed to enhance equality of opportunities internally? Are economic growth and gender equality mutually reinforcing or mutually exclusive? Are there constraints that affect highly-qualified women in the development of strategies that enhance the competitiveness of their companies? Promoting women employment not only improves the profitability of the organizations but also enhances national economies. Thus, it is important to analyse the role female entrepreneurs play in contributing to economic development by fostering social inclusion and employment.

Based on the conclusions and results of Gentour I, the central objective of the project Gentour II is to evaluate how tourism companies and organisations deal with gender equality and to evaluate the potential played by networks and internationalisation to promote forms of gender equality and to introduce innovative forms of economic growth. This will comprise the study of how organisational and economic growth affect gender equality, as well as how gender affects decisions towards growth and strategies used thereof.

Scientific Production
Useful Links
  Home Gallery Contacts Portuguese Sitemap
      partnership     partnership     partnership     partnership     funder     funders Facebook Twitter  W3C CSS válido!