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The expanding growth of the tourism and hospitality industry has been widely reported particularly in Malaysia. While this industry have been on maximum expansion, employment rate have been increasing to sustain the outstanding growth of this industry. In addition to the rising number of women who are becoming a central part of the labour market in Malaysia and the commitment of the Government of Malaysia in promoting women's equality, more women have been seen holding top positions in hospitality organizations. Despite continuous efforts by the Government in promoting women's equality, it is undeniable that women still face significant obstacles for advancement to top management positions.
Many factors have been associated with women's career advancement in the hospitality industry. For this research, organizational factors, social factors and individual factors have been taken into consideration for women's career advancement based on many empirical studies done on this issue worldwide (Tharenou, 1997a; Crampton and Mishra, 1999; Powell, 1999). Instead of conducting a study on female managers' perception on their current opportunities for career advancement in a hospitality setting, a study on the perceptions of female hospitality undergraduates may have been a better option. The reason behind this was to study how the future employees or perhaps future leaders of the industry perceived on the current state of career opportunities for females and the future that lies behind for them. By identifying and understanding the perception of these targeted respondents, various initiatives and strategies could be taken by responsible parties to enhance the national machinery for women's advancement in this vigorous growth of the industry.
The study identified several factors that influence women's career advancement in the hospitality industry. Promotion policies, appraisal systems and opportunities for establishing creditability were considered by respondents as the most important items affecting women's career advancement in organizational factors. Conflict with family responsibilities, being a single parent, childcare responsibilities and gender treatment were considered as the main items affecting women's career advancement in social factors. Attitude for work, communication skills, problem solving skills and high educational qualifications were among the individual factors which were seen to be more important compared to the others. All three factors showed a significant relationship with women's career advancement in the hospitality industry, with organizational factors obtaining the highest r-correlation, followed by social and individual factors. There were no significant demographic differences in perceptions of female hospitality undergraduates on women career advancement.
Respondents were positive for women's career advancement in the hospitality industry despite agreeing on the fact that women face significant obstacles for career advancement in the hospitality industry. Majority of respondents agreed that females have very good opportunities for career advancement and also believed that females have very good prospect for promotion opportunities. Respondents were aware that females are likely to face more obstacles in climbing the organizational ladder, achieving top positions slower compared to male counterparts. Data reported confirmed that women in the hospitality industry continue to face challenges in their career advancement. Thus, hospitality education programmes should prepare female students with realistic information and activities to prepare women for leadership positions in the hospitality industry.
Educators should focus on the necessary skills for women to better prepare women for career advancement in the hospitality industry. Industry leaders should also be responsible to prepare students for professional lives and to meet the needs of the hospitality industry. Putting in maximum effort to develop these students while they are undergoing their internship would definitely help in preparing them for future management positions in the industry. Utilising the knowledge from education in the industry will positively affect students as they can see the relevance of education for their future career advancement. It is also encouraging that most people in this study realized the importance of hospitality education in regard to women's career advancement.
The relationship between the two stakeholders could not be denied in shaping students for a career in the hospitality industry. In fact, the quality of relationship between industry and education will certainly bring a symbiotic and mutually beneficial influence on the professional development of an individual. Hospitality education complements the industry and vice versa, describes the inability of any side to survive without the existence of the other. The key in the establishment of a mutually beneficial relationship between the two stakeholders will certainly be hospitality students. The education-industry relationship will fall short of achieving any meaningful outcomes without the involvement of hospitality students. Thus, an enhanced industry-education relationship will be a major beneficiary for the individual student. Student internships, joined seminars and training sessions further enhance the interaction and networking between the industry and academia. An added advantage for such activities will be the build of trust between the parties. Thus, this enhances their understanding of the role, responsibilities and expectations of one another (Zopiatis & Constanti, 2007).
4.2 Limitations and Implications of Research
The study conducted has generated some interesting findings. There were few limitations for this research. Firstly, students from Taylor's University College who have been selected to be the sample of the study have been over represented. The selection of these students as the sample for this study has limit the researcher to understand female hospitality undergraduates perceptions towards women's career advancement in Malaysia as a whole. In addition, the fact that the students were from the researcher's own institution further allow greater access to students. Secondly, online survey was done due to the time constraint. This means that there are possibilities that the respondents from this new research technique are not female hospitality undergraduates in Taylor's University College. However, there were not many respondents from the online survey. Therefore, an assumption could be made that the data were not obstructed.
The findings of the study allow implications for both hospitality educators and industry leaders on curriculum design and industry training. By identifying and understanding students' perception on women's career advancement, hospitality educators can play a crucial role in preparing students for the industry by engaging them with realistic views and adequate knowledge for professional development in the industry. Industry leaders, who represent the hospitality industry should acknowledge students and shape them with the essential personality and attitude for future management positions. The solution for equality and better career advancement in the hospitality industry not only lies in better preparation of women to work hard to foster their abilities by educators, but also in the creation of a more equitable organizational culture in the industry. Since hospitality students are the future leaders of the industry, both the hospitality education and industry play a pivotal role in addressing the issues related to women's career advancement. Nevertheless, the effort to shape the future asset of the industry will certainly help create a more supportive industry environment for women.
4.3 Recommendations for Industry and Educators
Educators should equip students with realistic expectations of the working environment in the industry. It is vital to provide students with a greater awareness on the working conditions in the industry to allow students to prepare themselves mentally in committing in a career in the industry. The requirements and careers offered by the industry must be adequately developed. This includes well defined human resource policies in hospitality organizations which further allow students to have a better view on their future career path and development in the hospitality industry.
Based on this study, the concern on treatment from managers based on gender should be look into. It is crucial to have a healthy relationship between managers and students during their industrial trainings. Treating students in an equitable and fair manner regardless of gender will change students' negative perception on women's career advancement in the hospitality industry to positive ones. On the other hand, acknowledging interns and empowering interns with decision making task will enable them to utilise their skills for professional development for management positions in future. This will also encourage students in increasing their skills and abilities, thus, making them motivated and committed for a career in the hospitality industry.
Furthermore, hospitality organizations should understand students well in order to provide them a positive training experience. Understanding the different characteristics, attributes and behaviour of student allow industry to cater to the need of these students to maximize satisfactory output from them. Providing more cross training opportunities will help individual growth in terms of expanding the scope of experience from different departments in a hospitality organization. Moreover, industry will also benefit by having highly trained, highly educated, motivated and enthusiastic in developing a career with the organization. Thus, successfully equip students with comprehensive skills, competent personalities and most importantly the positive attitude for work towards achieving high management positions in the mere future.
4.4 Recommendations for Future Research
The study has uncovered a major area of concern for female students, the future leaders in the hospitality industry. Future research could be done by expanding the research to hospitality students all over Malaysia. This will allow a greater validity of results on the topic of this study. The progression of female students from educators in classroom environment and the progression of students in industrial trainings from industry leaders would be interesting to further look into. Then, associating the perceptions from both stakeholders for women's career advancement in the hospitality industry will allow this study to go a step further in narrowing the gap between the hospitality education-industry relationship. Such an investigation could also examine the triangular relationship of students, educators and industry leaders towards women's career advancement. Foremost, it will provide the foundation for students' future career development and enhance the working relationship between hospitality students, the academia and the industry.
This study has examined the perception of female hospitality undergraduates in Taylor's University College towards women's career advancement. Perhaps, future research could be done on attributes and qualities of women leaders and how it affects women's career advancement and leadership effectiveness. This allows researchers go a step further by understanding the perception of women's career advancement and leadership effectiveness. A different approach could be done for collection of data for this study. The intention for this future study further investigates the behavior of leaders and how it enhances the leadership skills in a female leader. Therefore, qualitative approach would be more applicable to study on the behaviour, interactive relationships and social movements of women leaders. Thus, allowing researchers to study on the behaviour of female leaders, which would be rather difficult for analysis of data through statistical data and mathematical equations.
In an attempt to fully analyze and understand women's career advancement with the intention to narrow the gap in the education-industry relationship, these three factors - organization, social and individual, must be thoroughly examined from the perspective of all stakeholders involved. It is important to understand any gaps or discrepancies in any of the three factors that may directly or indirectly impact on the students' professional development. The goal to identify whether the gap between education and industry exist were based on the positive or negative perceptions of female hospitality undergraduates towards women career advancement in the hospitality industry. Proactively intervene in the perceptions of students minimizes negative effects, thus, enhancing the quality of the learning experience offered to students which further prepares them for top management positions in an organization. Although the formulation of this research paper was based on existing empirical findings, it is strongly believe that there is a strong relevance for scholars who wish to investigate other industry-education-career advancement relationship in other industry sectors. In short, the triangular relationship between education, industry and students is crucial to be studied and analyzed to have a better understanding on future prospects for career advancement in the hospitality industry.