Almost half of women in Scots tourism ‘experience career barriers’

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing. Picture: John Devlin

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing. Picture: John Devlin

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ALMOST half of women working in Scottish tourism say they have experienced barriers to career progression, according to new research.

More than a third say their career has been affected by having a family or being a carer.

Some 46 per cent of female tourism workers in Scotland believe men are able to progress faster in the industry.

And nearly a quarter claim they are not paid the same as male colleagues working at the same level.

The research was commissioned by the new Women in Tourism group, which was set up last year by a number of industry professionals in Edinburgh. The Royal Yacht Britannia, the Assembly Rooms. Edinburgh Napier University and Festivals Edinburgh are all represented in the group, which wants to gauge the extent of gender equality across the industry. Around 60 per cent of its workforce are female.

Participants in its survey say the domination of men at a senior level within their organisation and a lack of opportunity have been among the biggest barriers to career progression.

Just 15 per cent of those who responded said they owned their own business or were chief executives of their organisation. However 75 per cent of those polled said they wanted to progress to a “senior level” within the industry.

Susan Russell, chair of Women in Tourism, which is staging a special Scottish Tourism Week event in Edinburgh today, said: “The results from the survey provide sector-wide evidence for the first time that we have an ambitious female workforce working across all parts of the tourism industry.

“While barriers or challenges have been identified, respondents were clear that they have the right skills and attributes to reach roles of leadership, but would welcome support through networks and mentoring to enable them to achieve their full potential.

“The support for Women In Tourism has been fantastic and we’re delighted to be hosting our first event during Scottish Tourism Week. It was during this week last year when we became aware of the gender imbalance within senior roles across the sector.

“We look forward to working with both female and male colleagues across Scotland as Women In Tourism continues to develop.”

Women in Tourism member Julie Grieve, former chief executive of the Old Town Chambers in Edinburgh’s Old Town, formed her own technology company for the serviced apartment and self-catering market last year.

She said: “The thing that really stood out for me was the finding about men dominating at a senior level within an organisation.

“I wasn’t surprised by that but I was really pleased to see that women believe it to be the case.

“If we don’t have role models, if we don’t see women on panels, if we don’t see women talking and we don’t see them out selling at a senior level it is very hard for women to imagine themselves doing that role.

“You really have to be passionate about tourism to work in it because there can be very unsociable hours.

“I completely believe that job-sharing should be available and possible at a senior level but you still don’t see it.

“If we’re going to have women progressing but they want to be able to spend time with their children or take time out then job-sharing shoudn’t just be limited to the lower levels.”

Kat Brogan, managing director of Edinburgh-based Mercat Tours, said: “It’s really important to us as a family business to offer opportunities to all members of our team regardless of age or background.

“We’ve grown over the last 30 years to become market leaders by recruiting on attitude, seeing and encouraging potential.

“Until six months ago, I led an all-female management team, who were all in their roles because of their attitude and ability.

We have never, and won’t ever, appoint staff based on anything other than their skills, passion and commitment to our company’s philosophy to support and develop our team.”

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