Gender and Tourism: Female Leadership in the Hotel Sector

Gender and Tourism: Female Leadership in the Hotel Sector

Denise Salvador (Senac Ceará, Brazil), Zélia Breda (University of Aveiro, Portugal) and Filipa Brandão (University of Aveiro, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4318-4.ch006
OnDemand PDF Download:
No Current Special Offers


An increasing number of women occupy positions in the labour market that were previously restricted to men. This is, however, still limited by the dual roles of working women. This chapter aims to address gender issues in the tourism industry. Specifically, it focuses on female participation in the labour market, highlighting the characteristics of women in leadership positions. A case study approach was used, focusing on female leaders in the hotel sector in Fortaleza, Brazil. An exploratory qualitative study was developed through semi-structured interviews, which aimed to gather data on the career path of female leaders. The collected data allowed understanding how these women reached top-level positions, and their leadership styles. Results indicate that early entry into the labour market, dedication, education, entrepreneurial skills, and dynamic personality are instrumental and work directly affects family relationships, being the cause of some problems in their personal lives.
Chapter Preview


Gender relations have been debated from a variety of perspectives, and studies in this regard have become increasingly relevant. Women and men should be treated fairly according to their needs. This may include equal treatment or unequal treatment, but equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities (UNWTO & UN Women, 2011).

Despite the achievement of prominent places in various sectors of society, women still face problems. Structural barriers, including discriminatory laws and institutions, limit women’s options to pursue their careers (UNWTO, 2019). Culturally, their role is established by the obligations of motherhood, marriage, the maintenance of home and family, and the preservation of moral values (Costa, Bakas, Breda, & Durão, Carvalho, & Caçador, 2017). There are, therefore, several factors that push women away from the labour market or, when they do not, hinder their progression (Costa, Bakas, Durão, & Breda, 2015; Costa, Durão, Bakas, Breda, Carvalho, & Caçador, 2015).

Work, like other human phenomena, relies heavily on gender. Certain divisions persist, such as the thought that there are “women's jobs” (Strey, 2007). There is a pre-established view on female roles in the labour market and it is observed that they generally focus on activities derived from traditional roles such as domestic services and sewing, childcare and sick care, among others (Instituto ETHOS, 2004). Such functions are marked by the subservience, affection and empathy of the professionals, characteristics seen as markedly feminine. “This is because gender roles are so deeply embedded within people’s subconscious that they are taken as the ‘norm’ and hence not questioned” (Costa et al., 2017, p. 69).

Although there are many barriers to women's progress in the labour market, women have been gaining ground as they occupy more and more jobs in different areas and across different sectors of the economy (Costa, Durão et al., 2015). Considering the evolution of female participation in the global market, there is also an increase in the number of women who hold positions that were previously restricted to men, and that they can occupy leadership positions (Costa, Bakas, Breda, & Durão, 2017). However, this development has been limited, to a large extent, due to the dual role of women, who spend more hours than men in housekeeping and parenting, despite the fact that both have jobs outside the home (Costa, Carvalho & Breda, 2010).

Another major barrier to women's progress in management remains the gender stereotype and the pre-existing belief in a male-based form of management (Veras, 2009). Women's representation is still tied to traditional images, which constrain not only the way employers see women, but also the way women see themselves. Assuming managerial roles may be considered by some women to be non-feminine and not suited to their “nature” (Costa et al., 2010).

This issue of gender relations and the labour market is particularly relevant for the tourism industry, which is one of the major drivers of the economy and the labour market, as it generates income and employment, and interacts with local and global constructions and with conditions of gender relations. Studying gender relations and their influence in the tourism industry is of fundamental importance, however, the literature on this subject started to develop since the mid-1990s and early 2000s (Hall, Swain, & Kinnaird, 2003; Kinnaird & Hall, 1994, 1996, 2000; Swain, 1995; Swain & Momsen, 2002).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: