How the intersections of age, gender, ethnicity and class influence the longevity of a hospitality career in New Zealand
Literature on the hospitality career often portrays hospitality work as physically hard, dirty, stressful and badly paid. Much hospitality research is descriptive in nature and neglects aspects such as power relations and gender. In recent years, critical researchers have investigated the conditions of hospitality work. Their conclusions have been that, in the main, those disadvantaged in terms of employment opportunities, the young, the old, women and migrants populate hospitality employment.
This study investigated the career experiences of long-term hospitality workers. The aim of the research was to find out why people build and maintain long careers working in the hospitality industry. An intersectional methodology explored how age, gender, ethnicity and occupational class processes affected career longevity. Three memory-work sessions were held with hospitality academics that had previously held operational positions in hospitality. Nineteen semi-structured interviews with current hospitality employees followed.
Findings show that in many respects the hospitality career shows characteristics of a boundaryless career model, for example, a wide network of industry contacts facilitate career advancement. It is also clear that boundary enablers and constraints, such as geographical mobility, regulate hospitality careers. Two careers paths in hospitality were found. There is an accelerated career path for men and women who conform to the industry-wide male hetero-normal beliefs established by the industry gatekeepers, such as general managers. The rewards associated with this career path are high status, excellent remuneration and a wide network of industry contacts. Then there is a more limited career path, for those who do not progress past the boundary gatekeepers. The rewards associated with this path are strong work-based social connections, the respect of their peers and adequate financial compensation. Both career paths provide a high level of job satisfaction, expressed by the participants as a ‘passion’ to ‘do the job’ well. At all levels of the hospitality hierarchy, from General Manager to Kitchen Porter, this passion ensures career longevity.
The contribution of this study is that, firstly, it extends the use of intersectionality beyond the investigation of oppression, to an understanding of the complex interplay between privilege and penalty. Secondly, it reveals that an intersectionality paradigm can combine with other frameworks, such as career theory, to enrich understanding of how organisational processes confer privilege in the workplace. Thirdly, the focus on why people remain in a hospitality career, rather than a focus on why they leave, enables a clearer vision of what is required to ensure a more equitable workplace for all employees. A career construct model based on the study findings illustrates how variables such as age, gender, ethnicity and class influence the pace of career progression for individual workers. Further longitudinal and critical research could fill the remaining gaps in our knowledge about the longevity of hospitality careers.