Gender equality has been recognised by law in several countries and many developments in this field can be observed, such as the growing entry of women into higher education and the labour market. However, some inequalities persist.

Women still have lower employment rates, are more frequently part-time and precariously employed, have lower salaries and are underrepresented in decision-making and top level management. Some of the main reasons for this are the accumulation of paid and unpaid work, the unequal split of tasks at home, the lack of childcare services and the lack of measures to balance work and family lives, which leave women with less time for professional development. Gender stereotypes also influence men and women to comply with traditional gender roles, namely those of the breadwinner and the care-taker, respectively. In addition, there are structural aspects of companies that disadvantage women: e.g. vacancies for high-level supervision positions are often not advertised, since the chosen ones are directly addressed by the company board. Moreover, women lack access to informal networks and have fewer opportunities for mentorship.

Concerning the tourism sector, the majority of its workforce is made of women. Besides that, in many countries, such as Portugal, women are the majority of those pursuing and completing higher education degrees in tourism studies. In spite of that, employment in the tourism field is marked by sharp inequalities: whereas men occupy most of the top-level and best paid positions, women tend to fill lower and worse paid positions, having more difficulties to climb the career ladder and break the glass ceiling.

Gender issues in the tourism sector have been studied by some authors (Minu Hemmati, Vivian Kinnaird, Derek Hall, Thea Sinclair and Margaret Swain, among others), but concerning the Portuguese context there are only a few scattered studies. Thus, it was our intention to analyse and critically discuss gender inequalities in the tourism sector in Portugal and our first project was designed to make a diagnosis of organisations in the tourism sector and their managerial personnel based on the analysis and evaluation of the constraints to women’s vertical mobility (identifying the reasons therefore). The project aimed at contributing to the debate about the persistence of trends that prevent women from achieving top-level positions within companies, by providing guidelines and solutions for this problem.

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