Despite significant increases in the levels of female labour market participation over the past several decades, the percentage of women occupying senior management positions remains stubbornly low. The EU average for female board members is 13.7 per cent (Catalyst, 2014). And also it is observed that women have been in the labour market in most developed and developing countries for more than 20 years, while the estimate of women in senior management, for example, in the UK, remains at 5 per cent (Burke and Nelson, 2002), and in Malaysia (2006) it is at 5.4 per cent.

Although in Sri Lanka female labour force participation rates are also gradually increasing over the past years from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 from 32.9%, 35.4%, and 34.6% up to 35.9% according to the Travel and Tourism, ICRA Lanka and ICRA Managing Consultancy Services, September 2011, P.4, Currently women account for less than 10% of those employed by the tourism sector. Men the majority among hotel managers’ top executives, and higher levels of professional workers whilst women are still concentrated in the lower categories of managerial positions and operations. A study by Zhong, (2006) indicates that women are struggling to reach the top in the hospitality industry, and that women are subordinate to men.

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According to 2014 – 2016 SLTDA Annual Statistical Report data the direct employment in the tourism industry, hotels and restaurants category accounts for the highest being recorded 118,258 in year 2016. Further presently, under the hotels and restaurants category 90,444 persons are directly employed. However, the hospitality industry in Sri Lanka, more specifically in the service sector, according to the Sri Lanka Labour Force Survey 2016 data the total employed population in services industry is 46.5, and the female Labour force participation rate is 35.9. These figures emphasis that majority of the service industry employees are male. Moreover, according to Sri Lanka hotel school HR consultant, female enrolment in hotel schools are extremely low. According to SLITHM 2015 enrolment data Colombo recorded the highest female participation accounting for 21% females, and accordingly Kandy 12%, Anuradhapura 6% and Bandarawela recorded the least accounting for 1%. Therefore, this study would be beneficial to recognize the critical success factors for the sustainable development of the Sri Lankan hotel industry.

Research suggests that overall a woman’s place in hotels is generally not an enviable one (Mooney, 2009). Women frequently carry out the most undesirable and lowest status work in hospitality (Adib and Guerrier, 2003; Korczynski, 2002). They are horizontally segregated into particular jobs and areas of operation (Ng and Pine, 2003) and, vertically segregated into jobs regarded as low in skills and consequently low in status. (Purcell, 1996, p. 18). Studies show that females gain more promotions to middle management positions in hotels. However, most female managers in the lodging industry worked in positions (e.g., sales, housekeeping) that are less likely to lead to the general manager position, or they have fewer opportunities to be promoted to senior management positions (Garavan, et al., 2006; Nebel, Lee, & Vidakovic, 1995; Parker & Fageson, 1994; Riley, 1990; Woods & Viehland, 2000). Studies also have found that women in the executive hierarchy are more than twice as likely to hold staff positions as the line positions required for advancement to senior level positions (Galinsky, Salmond, Bond, Kropf, Moore, & Harrington, 2003; Catalyst, 2006).

The glass ceiling metaphor, that subtle, transparent and seemingly impenetrable barrier that prevents women and minorities from moving up the management hierarchy (Altman et al., 2005) remains integral to any discussions on the career development of women.

Although the hotel industry has embraced many aspects of modern technology, the provision of services in hotels has not changed radically from the last century. They are dependent on the critical human elements of service and what Korzensky (2002, p. 63) calls “customer sovereignty” to ensure a successful and profitable operation. The operational structure of a hotel reflects an entrenched tradition of 24-hour, seven-day week service to the customer.

The hospitality business is peculiar among a sub-sector of hospitality, catering and tourism that includes fast food outlets, clubs, snack bars, guest houses, banquet halls and event tents, among others (ILO, 2010). Globally, tourism and hospitality and their subsidiaries are acknowledged as one of the world’s fastest growing economic industries, generating about US$1.3 trillion alone in 2012, largely from international travel (Babalola and Oluwatoyin, 2014; Baker et al.,
2000). The income generated from hospitality and tourism is a significant boost to the economy of some nations, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, Asia, South Africa and Kenya, for example (Esu, 2015; Sanni, 2009).

Indeed, the progress of the hospitality and tourism industry has been associated with the progress of any economy (Sanni, 2009). Service organizations are encouraged by the literature (Gronroos, 1996, 1997, 2000; Zeithaml and Bitner, 2000) to consider employee performance, as a means to gain competitive advantage.

Moreover, according to Burke (2002), there is a need to document efforts by organizations to develop women managers and professionals, and more knowledge about factors that positively influence the advancement of women in organizations is needed because research has mostly focused on barriers. Despite the fact that the workforce is becoming more diverse (Fernandez, 1999), and more women are participating in the workforce (International Labor Organization (ILO), 2004), too few studies in the field of Human Resource Development (HRD) have addressed issues related to diversity, such as gender and race equality, power, discrimination, and others (Bierema ; Cseh, 2003). In addition, Wright (2003) stressed the need to emphasize more positive aspects of work and life in organizational research. Therefore, this study particularly focusing on examining the factors affect on female carrier progression with special reference to the hotel industry in Sri Lanka.


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