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.


Within the Portuguese context, this project aims specifically at:

      » Making a diagnosis of organizations in the tourism sector and their managerial personnel;
      » Analysing women's importance in the tourism sector;
     » Analysing employment expectations and the real employment situation for students and graduates, examining the disparities between men and women regarding salaries, academic background and areas of activity;
      » Analysing the constraints posed to the reconciliation of work and family life;
      » Analysing attitudes towards women's access to leadership and decision-making positions, as well as traditional gender-linked roles;
      » Analysing and evaluating the reasons for and constraints to women’s vertical mobility;
      » Contributing to the advance of knowledge about women participating in tourism economy, with focus simultaneous on education and employment;
      » Develop tools that may that support women in their career progression and optimise human capital within companies.

Following the diagnosis of the current situation of women and men with higher education degrees in tourism, suggestions were made, so that a more equitable participation of women and men in the economy is achieved. Therefore, it is believed that the project can have strong managerial implications, contributing thus not only to women's empowerment, but also to a boost in the competitiveness of tourism companies, since they rely heavily on their human capital.

Besides its managerial implications, the project will provide substantial contributions to the advancement of knowledge on gender studies, namely on women's participation in the tourism economy.


Nowadays 61% of people that conclude higher education degrees in tourism are women. But who occupies top-level positions in the tourism sector? Which factors prevent women with higher education degrees from climbing the career ladder the way their male counterparts do? How do the careers of male and female graduates in the tourism sector differ? What are the expectations of the students who attend tourism degrees concerning the labour market? The Project Gentour aims at answering these and other questions.

After a thorough literature review and the analysis of several databases, surveys were applied to women and men undergoing higher education tourism degrees studies, in order to evaluate their aims, motivations and expectations. Parallel work was developed to inquire graduates in tourism studies who are working within the tourism sector, as well as their employers. The aim is to get insights and perspectives from both parties, and gain knowledge on women's evolution in the career and barriers to progression, salary levels, expectations and managerial positions commonly held.

The research focus was extended from the private sector, so as to integrate the tourism superstructure as well. More than 3,000 respondents took part in the survey. The study was also extended to Brazil, allowing for a comparison between the Portuguese and the Brazilian reality.

The main tangible results predicted for this project were:

      » A model to support women in their career progression;
      » A handbook for gender equality in the tourism sector [here];
      » An awareness campaign [here];
      » A tourism awards scheme for best practices;
      » The laying of the foundations for an Observatory of Gender in Tourism;
      » A Code of Ethics for Tourism Employment.


Carlos Costa | University of Aveiro

Zélia Breda | University of Aveiro
Anabela Gomes Correia | Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal
Elisabete Figueiredo | University of Algarve
Jorge Arroteia | University of Aveiro
Manuel Salgado | Polytechnic Institute of Guarda
Inês Carvalho | University of Aveiro (research assistant)
Sandra Caçador | University of Aveiro (research assistant)

Alexandre Panosso | University of São Paulo, Brasil
Chris Cooper | Oxford Brookes University Business School, UK
Filipa Brandão | University of Aveiro
Helena Costa | University of Brasília, Brasil
Luiz Trigo | University of São Paulo, Brasil
Rui Costa | University of Aveiro

Design and Communication
Tânia Ventura | idtour - unique solutions


Concerning the profile and the education of tourism graduates and students in Portugal, this study confirmed that there are more women with academic degrees in tourism or enrolled in higher education degrees in this field. Although men prevail in highest academic degrees (master and doctorate), the majority, in absolute terms, of the qualified and specialised labour-force is composed of women. Women also reveal better academic results, in all academic degrees considered in the study. Whereas tourism higher education supply in Portugal is mostly provided by polytechnic institutions, graduates who reveal more entrepreneurial skills completed their academic degree in universities.

Regarding tourism graduates' professional situation in Portugal, it was observed that women reveal more constraints when entering the labour market. Among women, unemployment is higher; contractual situations are more precarious; the unemployment situation lasts longer; and the average number of jobs is lower.

Although pattern choices of work schedules are not determined by gender, it was confirmed that women work more in part-time jobs and, thus, work less hours than men.

Regardless the field of work, the regions of birth and residence, or academic education, women always exhibit lower salaries than men. In fact, on average, women earn 16.8% less than their counterparts. There were also unveiled territory patterns concerning salary, through the use of exploratory statistical techniques.

Although the willing to pursue management or leadership positions is similar, there is a clear prevalence of men on the highest hierarchical positions in the organisations, namely in management and supervision positions. On the other hand, among graduates who work in organisations with a code of conduct for gender equality, the gender gap in the occupation of management or leadership positions is clearly lower. It was also found that maternity has a negative influence on women's desire to pursue these more demanding positions. Also, the gender pay gap was more attenuated among graduates in the highest hierarchical positions.

As attenuating factors, it was observed that pursuing tourism postgraduate degrees leads to access to better conditions in the labour market and attenuates gender inequalities, namely the gender pay gap. In addition, a greater mobility in the beginning of the professional career showed a positive impact both in career advancement and wage development.

The analysis of the organisational practices concerning work and family balance revealed that there are a significant number of organisations with no measures for equal opportunity or work-family balance. Also, the average number of equal opportunity measures implemented in the organisations (where respondents were employed) is higher than the average number of measures of work-family balance, increasing proportionally with the size of the organisation. On the other hand, tourism graduates employed in organisations with more implemented measures (both equal opportunities and work-family balance measures) show higher levels of job satisfaction. Men reveal more apathy to equal opportunities in organisations and give more preference to measures concerning work schedule and place flexibility, while women emphasise measures related to family support. It was also observed that the more important measures identified by tourism students were the less frequently implemented by the organisations.

The analysis of the discrimination feeling in professional life of tourism graduates showed that, while women feel more discriminated concerning marital status and gender, men highlight ethnicity and nationality as the factors that generate more discrimination feelings in career advancement. In fact, respondents belonging to minorities always expressed higher discrimination levels. It was also observed that women generally feel more disadvantaged in all factors except for the number of working hours and the flexibility of working hours.

Analysing the dynamics and conflict between professional and family lives, it was found that women with children work less hours than women with no children, while among men the opposite was confirmed, i.e., those who have family responsibilities tend to work more hours per week. Also, most of male graduates in management positions have children while, among female graduates who fulfill these positions, the majority do not have children. In fact, being a parent reveals different professional constraints for men and women. The children factor increases the gender gap concerning employment rates, vertical mobility, entrepreneurial profile, willingness to pursue management or leadership positions, work schedule and salary, causing a restrictive effect among women and a catalyst effect among men. Analysing family responsibilities and domestic work, data show an unequal distribution of tasks among spouses, with the majority being delegated to the woman.


The conclusions of the Gentour Project pointed to the fact that the constraints resulting from work-family balance are the main obstacle to women's vertical mobility in organisations. Thus, public policies promoting equal distribution of family responsibilities among men and women are needed.

In addition, data suggest that the implementation of good practices in organisations, concerning gender equality and work-family balance, might has a significant impact in employees' lives, namely in their job satisfaction.

With the diagnostic of the employment situation of tourism graduates, a set of gender gaps regarding salary, work hours and part-time or full-time jobs, vertical mobility and regional patterns, concerning academic education and entrepreneurial profile, were confirmed. It was also confirmed that women, in general terms, reveal worst employment situations comparatively to men, even when they have a similar academic education or when performing the same task or position.

This research also allowed verifying that women feel more discriminated in their professional lives. The perception of the dissimilarities in the business environment creates discomfort among employees, deteriorating labour relationships, and consequently job satisfaction, and the productivity of employees.

Therefore, policies and action plans are urgently required, related to:

     » Academic and vocational education: the nature, quality and geographic distribution of the education supply must be analysed in order to attenuate regional asymmetries concerning salaries, employment rates and entrepreneurial profile of tourism graduates.
      » Recruitment: the implementation of Gender Equality measures in the recruitment process must be supervised, guaranteeing the adaptation of documents and procedures that support the whole process, such as the adaptation of all organisational documents that must be written with non-discriminatory and gender sensitive language, among others.
      » Employment: national mechanisms for monitoring gaps are needed, in order to promote the "equal pay for equal work" principle. Organisational practices concerning maternity and paternity leaves also need to be monitored.
     » Equal opportunity measures in organisations: namely the wages based on transparent objectives and equal to women and men, clear and well documented procedures concerning performance assessment and career development, adoption of a plan of good practices or a code of ethics, among others.
     » Work-family balance measures in organisations: these measure are needed in order to achieve a greater balance between professional and family lives, that clearly affect negatively more women, demanding a major effort to conciliate both; namely flexibility in changing or managing the work schedule, reintegration of employees who interrupted their careers for family reasons, protocols with family support services, among others.
     » In order to prevent situations of gender discrimination, organisations must integrate a Gender Equality module in their certified training programmes and formal mechanisms to the submission of complaints in gender discrimination, or others situations, must be provided.

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