Hotels, catering and tourism (HCT) is a large and fast-growing service sector, with an average female participation of 55.5 per cent at global level and up to70 per cent at regional level. (Baum, 2013).

The hotel industry is central to Sri Lanka’s economy and it has been identified as a major policy priority by the Sri Lankan government. In 2011, the GNP from hotels and restaurants (at constant prices) grew at 26.4%, while in 2014 it grew at 32%; in both years the fastest amongst all sectors. In 2015, tourism generated 319,436 both direct and indirect employment opportunities and Rs.405,492 million (US$ 2,980.6 million) foreign exchange earnings in the Sri Lankan economy (SLTDA, 2015). Further, the earnings from tourism in Sri Lanka have surged from US$ 349 million in 2009 to US$ 2,981 million in 2015 becoming the third largest foreign exchange earner in the country, succumbing only to workers’ remittances and income from garment exports. In addition in year 2014, hotels and restaurants contributed 32,029 million rupees to the GNP. Currently Sri Lanka shares 0.13% of the total tourists’ arrivals and 0.2% of the total tourist earnings of the world. Since, tourism is “an increasingly popular component of development strategy in low-income countries” (Wattanakuljarus ; Coxhead, 2008, p. 229) it is proposed to become the number one foreign currency earner by the year 2020, influenced by Malaysia a country focused strongly at promoting tourism.

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In today’s competitive environment, hospitality firms recognize that they are to deliver outstanding service quality to get hold of and retain a pool of satisfied and loyal customers for survival (Tam, 2000; Yasin & Yavas, 2001). Human is the most valuable resource and the contribution of the human resource is immense for the success and the growth of an organization. Hence every organization attempts to acquire and retain competent and motivated employees (Opatha 2009). Human resource management functions such as recruitment, selection, hiring, induction, training and development, performance evaluation, employee movements, pay management, grievance handling can be carried out by the Human Resources Department of an organization. In addition to that, an organization can carry out career management function and assist employees in their career development (Opatha 2009). Career development can be defined as a lifelong process of becoming aware of, exploring and experiencing factors that influence various aspects of a person’s life. Knowledge, skills and attitudes evolve through this path of discovery, enable planning and decision making not only about work exploration, related employment and vocational choices but also about personal management and life/work skills (Greenhaus et al. 2010). As Mathis and Jackson (2000) stated career development enables the organizations to attract and retain efficient and effective employees who would contribute to achieve the goals and objectives of the organizations. Similarly this enables the employees to achieve their individual career goals and objectives. For successful career development, a concerted effort of the organizations, employees, their families and the wider society is essential. In the absence of these efforts, both men and women employees face many challenges as they advance through careers. Furthermore, women have reported greater barriers than men and greater difficulties in getting career development opportunities (Armstrong 2003). These barriers may cause due to individual, family, social and organizational factors as mentioned earlier. The barriers that women employees and minority face when developing through their careers are termed as glass ceiling (Afza and Newaz 2008). This has given high attention in today’s world. Most of the women are limited to lower or middle level management positions in organizations due to glass ceiling. The effect of glass ceiling may vary in different countries and in different economic sectors.