Research Addresses Gender Disparity in the Hospitality and Tourism Workforce

February 19, 2020

the Hospitality and Tourism Workforce

Placing women in the hospitality workforce: An exploratory sequential mixed methods approach to within-gender professional identity construction.

This is the title of Dr. Sandra Ponting and Nikki Gonzales’ current research. Dr. Ponting is an Assistant Professor in the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM). Nikki Gonzales is a senior studying HTM and the current President of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, San Diego Chapter.

“Our research is trying to understand how women identify themselves in the hospitality and tourism industry through the lens of professional identity construction. Previous research explains that professional identity is constructed by how you see yourself and how others see you by what you do for work.” said Dr. Ponting. “If this is the case then we want to understand how/if gender identity plays a role in the hospitality and tourism workforce, and how/if and when gender identity and professional identity intersect.”

Dr. Ponting said that many women are studying hospitality and tourism world wide, but when you look at the hospitality and tourism workforce, the representation doesn’t reflect the classrooms.

“I see this disparity every single day in my classes but when I go into different internships and jobs, the majority of the leaders are male,” said Gonzales. “It is one thing to make it a topic of conversation but another to conduct research and publish the results so that the voices of women in hospitality and tourism can be heard.”

Recently, their research topic was awarded the Most Innovative Proposal award by the West Federation International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education Conference.

“We really want to understand if elements of professional identity from a woman’s perspective are similar or dissimilar from the current preferred leadership behaviors in the industry,” said Dr. Ponting.

Dr. Ponting said that this research is not meant to draw lines amongst genders, but a way to give voice to a side of the story that isn’t often heard. She emphasized, “The dream is to, from a social justice standpoint, include the values of other gender identities so everyone can be their authentic selves in the workforce. So, one day, professional identities without gender boundaries can be practiced.”

Dr. Ponting said that they are beginning their stage one interviews with women in hospitality this semester and are planning on having it published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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