Griffith University researchers have found that there is still much work to be done in achieving gender parity among the tourism industry, with more than 90 per cent of United Nations World Tourism Organisation events last year still dominated by males.

The research, led by Dr Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore, examined 119 events staged by the international body in 2017, seven years after the UNWTO first partnered with UN Women to uncover the significant gender gap that exists at all levels of the tourism industry.

Of those 119, only 64 had available data on their speakers, with the final sample totalling 1656. The disparity is immediately noticeable; while 1151 males were counted — 70 per cent of speakers — only 505 females were included.

More damningly, males outnumbered females in 59 of the 64 events — a staggering 92 per cent — while females outnumbered males in only four events (6 per cent). Gender parity was achieved among speakers at only one event (2 per cent).

Dr Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore

“This study’s findings cast a light on the gender blindness that still plagues the UNWTO, despite its pledge to the UN Sustainable Development Goal addressing gender parity in tourism,” Dr Khoo-Lattimore, a senior researcher at the Griffith Institute for Tourism, said.

“Unfortunately, practices such as an adherence to misguided ideals of ‘meritocracy’ — and putting more energy into saying the right thing than doing the right thing — remain culturally entrenched, and will require a dedicated effort at all levels of the organisation to overcome.”

Dr Khoo-Lattimore suggests in her research that these shortcomings are not the result of conscious bias, but rather due to unconscious, implicit biases that exist between genders even when attempting to consider someone’s ‘merit’.

“The concept of implicit bias can be found in almost any organisation, culture or society on Earth,” she said.

“These unconscious attitudes and prejudices can be found even among the educated population, who are largely unaware they are perpetuating toxic practices.”

Further insight into the work to come was highlighted by the fact that 45 per cent of events saw male speakers outnumbering females by three to one; contrarily, there was not a single event among the 64 where women achieved that same level of dominance.

“There is a long road ahead for the UNWTO to achieve its expressed goal of supporting gender equality, and that starts with improving event organisers’ capability to engage in inclusivity in such a way that is genuine and visible,” Dr Khoo-Lattimore said.

“On a more formal level, recommended steps include undertaking practices such as developing formal protocols for dealing with equality issues and an inclusion-scoping checklist, which identifies common gender and ethnicity constraints and takes steps to resolve them.”