Those looking for work in hospitality and tourism should use the power given to them by a tight job market to vet potential employers carefully.
This is the advice of Associate Professor Shelagh Mooney who, in talking with The Feed Weekly podcast, says there is a desperate shortage of workers in a sector that has both great employers and also, bad employers.
"Many young people don't recognise that when they're going for an interview, it's a two-way street," Associate Professor Mooney says.
"They should at the interview, in the politest possible way, get an indication of how they are going to fare in that organisation - if they are going to be given the opportunities that they wish."
Questions that are non-confrontational, and open-ended, that ask for a specific answer, such as: Will I receive a review of my performance in three months? How is promotion gone about? I really want to give my most - what can I expect from your organisation?
"Good employers will be impressed by people who show motivation to progress and will want to work with them," she says.
"That's the wonderful thing actually about the hospitality industry, and education, is that you've got these young people who are filled with passion and joy and many people join hospitality for that reason.
"They can have the most wonderful career by actually being very clear about what they want and interviewing the employers to find the one who is principled."
Associate Professor Mooney says the better employers can also be found by word of mouth and asking questions of your network on social media, with large corporate organisations often having done a lot in recent years to address working conditions.
“One really unfortunate thing about hospitality and tourism, that I must say, is that the bad stories you hear are not representative of the really good employers that we have.”
Employers crying out for staff might like to check that their working conditions are suitable for female employees.
For example, employment in hospitality and tourism is too often about presenteeism, where workers are expected to be available and flexible to the needs of the business, Associate Professor Mooney says.
Women are often juggling work with childcare that is only open weekdays and can’t drop everything to be at work at the drop of a hat.
“If you are excluding 50% of the local available workforce because they don’t quite fit your profile of a flexible worker or because people themselves look at that organisation’s needs and think ‘do I really think I can do well in that sort of environment?’, then you have less people that you can recruit to your workforce,” Associate Professor Mooney says.
Fair and transparent progression policies canmake hospitality and tourism better for women, who are often overlooked for promotion.
”To my mind, the only way that research shows that we can redress the balance is by having policies that apply to everyone, however, that we also within those policies, recognise that some groups may need more support than others. But the ideal is that you make those supports available to everybody.”
Associate Professor Mooney says research from a new study looked at workplace norms in Australian kitchens.
“The barriers that women face in professional kitchens make the barriers faced by women in other occupations in hospitality fade into insignificance – the norms establish basically that women don’t belong in the kitchen.”
The research showed that the professional kitchen is a very male domain, with women penalised in systemic ways. They were objectified as women who were going to have children, or as sexual objects. They were also penalised economically because they did not have development opportunities like their male peers, regardless of their talent. And they were constantly reminded they weren’t part of the boys’ gang and they left in droves.
Associate Professor Mooney says the battle for equity has not yet been won.
“It is our duty, I believe, to prepare young people for the reality that if they are a certain ethnicity, that if they are a certain gender, that if they are a certain sexual orientation, then their true worth might not be seen as easily, and they should know what both their personal and legal recourses are.”
By using their power in a tight job market, job seekers should be asking questions of prospective employers so they ensure they work for one of the many good employers who recognise the value of their staff and work hard to look after them.