A woman's place in hotel management: upstairs or downstairs?

Shelagh Mooney (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Irene Ryan (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Publication date: 8 May 2009



The purpose of this paper is to ask whether it is the notion of choice (a pro‐life work/life balance decision) that influences woman's desire to strive for promotion within a hotel organisation or is the choice made for female managers by a system of organisational processes.


This research within an international hotel group in Australia and New Zealand explored what barriers prevent women from reaching the top echelons in hotel management. A qualitative approach used semi‐structured interviews to study the intersection of gender, age and time in life with career progression and their combined impact on the glass ceiling phenomenon.


The interviews revealed that the perception of glass ceiling barriers faced by women differed depending on where they were in their career cycle. They were revealed as the “long hours” culture, the old boy's network, hiring practices and geographical mobility. These significantly influenced women's work‐life balance, and personal‐life choices.

Research limitations/implications

Interviews were carried out in three locations across a variety of job positions; therefore, this study has a reasonable degree of validity. Findings could be applied to other large hotel enterprises in Australia and New Zealand.

Practical implications

The findings from this study offer implications for management practice.


The hospitality industry faces a worldwide shortage of skilled staff. This paper seeks to answer why the hotel sector is struggling to retain talented female employees who wish to take advantage of the managerial career paths offered.



Mooney, S. and Ryan, I. (2009), "A woman's place in hotel management: upstairs or downstairs?", Gender in Management, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 195-210. https://doi.org/10.1108/17542410910950877

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