Despite the increasing presence of women in the hospitality labour market, empirical evidence shows persistent horizontal and vertical segregation, as well as a pay gap - a situation that perpetuates lost opportunities for the industry. Based on Barbara Risman’s model “Gender as a Social Structure” as a leading reference, the paper provides a gender based approach for the hospitality industry. Risman’s three levels of analysis (Individual, Interactional and Institutional) are completed with an Intersectional level, conforming the “Gender as a Social Structure in the Hospitality Industry” model. This model aims at identifying factors that cause discrimination among female executives. The methodology is based on thirty semi-structured in-depth interviews with female executives in the Spanish hospitality industry. The results show that the influence of self-imposed barriers, gender roles, problems associated with work-life conciliation and issues related to gendered organizations are the main factors that hinder achieving gender equality.
Although the number of women on boards of directors and in top management positions in organisations all around the world (e.g. Arfken et al., 2004; Pinar et al., 2011) is increasing, it remains low, and is growing at a very slow pace (e.g. Castaño et al., 2010; Bjørkhaug and Sørensen, 2012; Bugeja et al., 2012). There have been numerous articles analysing women’s representation in employment positions all over the world and focusing on gender discrimination, i.e. treating people differently on the basis of their sex (Cleveland et al., 2005). Research into the reasons for the lack of female representation in higher management positions has attributed it to workplace barriers, insufficient numbers of qualified women further down the career ladder, discriminatory stereotyping of leadership attributes as male attributes, incompatibility between job structures and the demands of raising a family, and self-imposed barriers (e.g. Emslie and Hunt, 2009; Roper and Scott, 2009; Boone et al., 2013). There is evidence of both vertical and horizontal segregation (e.g. Santos and Varejão, 2007; Campos-Soria et al., 2011) and the consequence of gender discrimination include the gender pay gap (e.g. Thrane, 2008; Campos-Soria et al., 2009; Muñoz-Bullón, 2009; Casado-Díaz and Simon, 2016; Baum, 2013; Fleming, 2015; Geiler and Renneboog, 2015; Livingstone et al., 2016). Although there is a considerable body of empirical and theoretical research on gender issues in the work environment, there is a lack of research applying feminist theories to vertical segregation of women in the tourism sector and hospitality industry (Brandth and Haugen, 2005; Lacher and Oh, 2012; Segovia-Pérez et al., 2014; Santero-Sanchez et al., 2015; Pritchard, 2018). The literature on women’s under-representation in leadership positions in the private tourism sector (Mooney and Ryan, 2009; Boone et al., 2013; Costa et al., 2017), or in universities and Academia is sparse (Munar et al., 2015; Pritchard and Morgan, 2017; Pritchard, 2018; Chambers et al., 2017). These gaps are the more significant because of the economic importance of tourism and the idiosyncratic features it has as an industrial sector. Employment in the hospitality and tourism industry is associated with notoriously poor wages, low job security, long working hours and shift work (Back et al., 2011) and with lower quality employment opportunities than in other industries (García-Pozo et al., 2012; Lacher and Oh, 2012; SanteroSanchez et al., 2015). In addition, although women make up 55.9% of the tourism workforce in OECD member countries (Stacey, 2015), their working conditions are worse than those of their male counterparts. All this adds up to vertical and horizontal segregation that help to maintain the leadership gap (Kogovsek and Kogovsek, 2015; Santero-Sanchez et al., 2015).