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There's a Nasty Smell in the Kitchen! Gender and Power in the Tourism Workplace in Wales

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The tourism industry accounts for over 10% of employment in Wales and is a significant employer of women. Perceptions of equal opportunities (EO) by core staff (i.e., nonseasonal, full-time, and regarded by the employer as permanent staff in "proper" nonseasonal jobs) are important in determining attitudes towards employment in tourism with implications for social inclusion. This article explores power relationships in tourism to identify reasons for continuing gender segregation and low pay among women. The study focuses on core jobs in hotels and visitor attractions in Northwest and Southeast Wales to avoid bias associated with seasonal and part-time work. Rural Northwest Wales focuses on traditional family holiday markets; urban Southeast Wales focuses on business, incentive, and increasingly event tourism. Hotels are key to the Welsh tourism product; visitor attractions may be public or private sector and enable comparison of the private and public sectors. The study draws on empirical research through a survey supplemented with semistructured interviews to consider the extent to which power has shaped the implementation of EO legislation in Welsh tourism businesses and explores through staff perceptions of organizational practices, promotion, and job stereotyping/gender prejudice to examine attitudes to EO and how it is approached by business and staff. The 1975 Sex Discrimination Act and its legal framework provide an overall context for the study. Funded by the European Social Fund and commissioned by the Tourism Training Forum for Wales, the study provides a rich contemporary picture of organizational culture relating to gender equality, social inclusion, and power as manifested in the tourism workplace in Wales and its impacts on, and implications for, men and women. The article concludes that significant inequalities still exist in the tourism workplace and that bottom-up power mechanisms can override legislative top-down power mechanisms so that women are quiescent and feeling powerless to act.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-09-01

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  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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