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News Article

Gender (in)equality in tourism conferences

Women underrepresented as keynote speakers

There is now a substantial body of research on gender issues in the tourism and hospitality industries, with reports examining gender in relation to employment, and representation of women in senior industry roles. But what about tourism as a research community: how are the genders split, and do women have equality with men in prominent positions in academic bodies and at research conferences? In a paper recently published online in the Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, Walters (2017) examines 53 academic conferences in the subject areas of tourism, hospitality, leisure and events. She finds that while women are well represented as conference chairs, there is unequal representation in prestigious roles of keynote and invited speakers.

Data were collected between mid October 2016 and mid April 2017 from the websites of relevant conferences to be held in the 2017 calendar year. Gender was analysed for five conference leadership categories including conference chairs or convenors, keynote speakers and expert panel participants, and organising, scientific or honorary committees. Gender balance in these leadership roles were compared with the composition of the TriNet community of tourism researchers as a proxy for the gender balance of leisure and tourism researchers overall, which shows an almost 50:50 split between men and women.

Among Chairs or similar roles, no gender gap was observed. Of the 79 individuals identified, women comprised 42% of Conference Chairs, Convenors and Presidents of Organising Committees and men accounted for 58%. This gender distribution shows no significant difference from the TriNet community. However, the study finds gender inequality in two types of roles – Keynote Speakers and membership on Honorary Committees – where there is statistically significant under-representation of women. It also identifies areas of tension between some host association values/aims and conference aims/themes and actual gender representation in conference leadership roles, finding a gap between rhetoric and action. For example, in one conference which highlighted ‘Equality, gender and diversity issues’ as a conference theme only one of the six Organising Committee members and less than one-third of Scientific Committee members were women.

The paper discusses the implications of gender inequality on both women academics and knowledge production in these fields, and suggests avenues for future research. These include an examination of whether gender equality at our academic conferences ‘matters’ to attendees, and investigating perceptions and impacts of under-representation of women on graduate students and emerging scholars.

The current (Volume 18, Issue 4) issue of Anatolia focuses on gender (in)equality in tourism academia; it goes ‘beyond the numbers’ and the varied contributions show a gendered landscape that extends from the curriculum through to how ‘top researchers’ in tourism are celebrated. Pritchard and Morgan (2017) provide compelling evidence of gendering in academic performance indicators in tourism – such indicators ‘make and mark its leaders and shape its knowledge canon’. The paper presents interventions to accelerate academic gender equity. Basurto Barcia and Ricaurte Quijano (2016) found in Ecuador an underrepresentation of women in teaching (53%) in relation to the percentage of female tourism students (75%). 


Walters T (2017). Gender equality in academic tourism, hospitality, leisure and events conferences. Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 23 November 2017
  • Subject(s)
  • Tourism