Scholarly Communications Project

It's All About Relationships: African-American and European-American Women's Hotel Management Careers


Angela L. Farrar

Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy


S.K. Murrmann, Chair
T. Calasanti
R. Minish
S.M. Nkomo
M. Rafig
J. F. Williams-Green

February 19, 1996
Blacksburg, Virginia


Among the 44000-plus general managers employed in United States' hotels in 1993, there were only 100 women, 15 African-Americans, and three African-American women. Additionally, less than 0.5 percent of corporate hospitality managers were women. Given this relative underrepresentation of European-American women and African-Americans, combined with the increasing diversity of hotel clientele and service providers, the purpose of this study is to broaden our understanding of the sources of inequitable occupational outcomes among race-gender groups in hotel management. Two research questions addressed are addressed (1) How are hotel management careers racialized and gendered?; and (2) How are the career experiences of African-American women who are hotel managers different from those of European-American women who are managers? A grounded hermeneutic research approach of joint collection, analysis, and contextualized interpretation of data was used. The data were collected using semi-structured interviews with ten African-American women and five European-American women who are hotel managers. The constant comparative method of analysis yielded 58 critical difference defining incidents in which the women's race and gender influenced their career experiences. Further analysis of these incidents yielded four conceptual categories: career stages, relationships, power resources, and human resource management practices. The women's careers were racialized and gendered through (1) their relationships to European-American men, which (2) provided the women with different resources at each stage of their careers and (3) influenced the way their superiors, who were predominantly European-American men, applied human resource practices. The differences in the career experiences of the women who participated in this study were largely a result of their different positions in relation to European-American men. These relationships to European-American men were significant as the women described these men as "having an inborn advantage in this industry" and as "running things." In the final chapter, I suggest actions hospitality practitioners, educators, and researchers can take to address several factors identified as contributing to the creation of inequitable career outcomes.

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