Leadership and Technology: The double gender gap in the tourism industry


By Helen Merrick

The role of technology in the tourism industry is increasingly important to keep up with global markets, address consumer needs and develop industry-wide data analysis. While the underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions in tourism industry and organisations has been widely researched, recent research from Figueroa-Domecq et al. sets out to explore the specific impact that organisations’ technological level has on women’s participation as leaders in tourism companies, as well as measuring the real impact of actions towards gender diversity in their governing bodies. 

The study divides technological levels among tourism organisations into three categories: High-tech knowledge-intensive services (HT) which includes e-commerce and marketing, Knowledge-intensive market services (KI) which includes airlines and cruise lines, and Less knowledge-intensive services (LKI) which is comprised of hospitality services, travel agencies and tourism operators.  

The research initially looked to assess how the organisation’s technological level influences women’s participation on governing bodies, specifically the Board of Directors (BOD) and membership team (MT). The study revealed that women are underrepresented in management bodies and notably it was found the higher the technological level of the tourism organisation, the lower the proportion of women on the BOD and MT. This underrepresentation in the tourism and ICT/tech industries, is associated with the institutional and structural barriers limiting women’s presence in both management positions and technology and STEM focused positions/fields, consequently limiting their progression in the tourism industry. These barriers include male dominated organisational culture which influence the perception of women’s capacities in leadership roles, as well as gender roles and stereotypes, which in the tourism industry largely limit women’s participation to areas which are extensions of traditional domestic roles, while STEM and IT tend to be associated with men.  

With regards Gender Diversity Programs, interestingly, the study suggests that while the technological level does not influence the implementation of gender diversity programs within tourism organisations, the number of women on governing bodies, specifically the BOD, impacts the quality and quantity of gender equality activities.Findings indicated that with a higher number of women in decision-making positions, the more likely it is to find programs that promote gender diversity in the organisation and beyond, to attract and retain women, and in turn the inclusion and implementation of Gender Diversity programs seems to promote representation of women on the BOD. However, the implementation of gender equality programs was demonstrated to be limited with around only one-third of analysed companies having programs within their organisations to promote gender diversity.   

Overall, the study demonstrates that in the biggest tourism companies in the world there is limited participation of women on BOD and MT. This underrepresentation of women in decision-making and leadership positions is directly affected by the technological level of the organisation supports previous research and studies in tourism and technology firms. Women’s limited participation on governing bodies of the tourism organisations analysed is directly affected by the technological level of the organisation. The findings of this study highlight the vital need to address imbalance of representation in managerial and decision-making positions, promote gender diversity programs and challenge gender stereotypes across the tourism and tech industries. 


Figueroa-Domecq, C., Palomo, J., Flecha-Barrio, D., and Segovia-Perez, M., (2020). Technology double gender gap in tourism business leadership. Information Technology & Tourism. 22, 75-106. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40558-020-00168-0 

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