This article was writen by two awesome recently graduated students from the Bachelor Degree in Tourism and Hospitality from the School of Tourism & Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi – Ramon Llull University.
The article is based on their Bachelor Thesis: Do women entrepreneurs face gender-based barriers when starting their own business in Barcelona’s tourism sector? distinguished with Best Social Degree Thesis Award by Cáritas Barcelona. Full copy of the thesis is accessible through this link: http://hdl.handle.net/2072/376287
At first sight, tourism industry might seem an example of success regarding gender parity and feminine talent captor. Even though a 55.5% of the tourism workforce are women, not all that glitters is gold. Tourism entrepreneurship is an example. In Spain, only 3 for every 10 business owners are women, and globally female entrepreneurs scarcely account for a 40% of total entrepreneurs. Apart from being extremely discouraging, this statistics arise many questions that deserve to be answered. Why does this happen? Is it us? Is it the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Those questions aren’t easy to answer. Several barriers to female entrepreneurship exist, and worse, they seem to be interrelated in a feedback loop from which it is difficult to escape. Women enter in it at a very young age, an invisible hand seems to be directing girls and boys towards specific careers depending on their gender. It is unclear when this hand appears for the first time, but it apparently pushes girls into professional careers based on people care, like tourism, only because of a supposed gender-related vocation. From this point, there is a snowball effect: girls grow up lacking role models in positions of power which gives us the impression that we can’t aim high.
And we can’t. In most cases. The glass ceiling and the precarious conditions we encounter in tourism labour market are eroding our saving capacity and networking strength while cutting short our possibilities to become business owners. And the snowball keeps growing. We, together with our couple, decide to start a family. Our professional career has not disappeared buy yet, the 79% of us do the household tasks everyday and carry the weight of childcare. Without realising it, as women, we seem to have achieved our purpose in society, or at least that is what 4 over 10 europeans believe. Why do people think this is all we have to offer?
Everyone keeps suggesting we can’t be our own boss, the entrepreneurial agents seem to be reluctant to invest in pregnant women. They wouldn’t listen if we didn’t want to, or couldn’t, dedicate all of our time to our project (as if they didn’t have a life beyond entrepreneurship… ). But it seems we can’t, part-time entrepreneurship is not an option. And we sacrifice, it is the first time but not the last. We feel guilty for leaving our family obligations aside. The snowball is hot on our heels. It seems we need to be up to the ideal entrepreneur profile, too sad it doesn’t match our value adding traits. The potential of feminine management starts to blur, we could have incentivized business social impact, brought to business alternative communication styles, implemented softer management approaches… But by now, we no longer know what we have to offer. And the snowball has got us. We end up distrusting our capabilities and undervaluing ourselves.
Unfortunately, this story is more frequent than it seems. But not everything is lost. If you look close enough, you will be able to find outstanding examples of female entrepreneurs who are willing to give you a hand. Brave, ambitious and prepared women that have overcome all those barriers staying true to themselves. We do things differently, and still we can be our own bosses if we want to. So, women entrepreneurs out there: take snowballs and build snowwomen.