Why the Travel Industry Must Catch Up With Women

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In the past few years, our culture has taken on the task of re-examining the role of women in society, and much of that discussion has focused on women in business. Thankfully, the leadership capabilities, strength, and intelligence of women are no longer up for dispute or under scrutiny, and more women than ever are being recognized for the roles as strong influencers, leaders, and employees. However, wide gender gaps in pay and in positions remain, and the travel industry is no exception.

Travel Weekly recently investigated the travel industry’s gender gap, delving into the relative lack of women at the top, and also the disparity between the scant presence of women in leadership positions and their broad power as sellers and buyers of travel. Featuring conversations with female travel leaders and examples of pro-woman business initiatives, the article is a snapshot of women’s current triumphs and struggles in the travel industry. Here are a few takeaways from Travel Weekly’s coverage:

The higher you go, the fewer women you see.
Michelle “Mick” Lee, founder of Women in Travel (Winit), a 3,000-member professional organization dedicated to providing resources and tools for success to women in the travel industry, shared some insights with Travel Weekly.  Lee is a 30-year veteran of the travel industry, and told Travel Weekly than the higher she progressed in her career, the fewer women she saw in boardrooms and C-suites. Much of her motivation behind founding Winit was to change those numbers. According to Travel Weekly, it is nearly impossible to find a major travel company with mostly women at the helm—on average, only 10% to 25% of director spots are held by women.

But in other sectors, women outnumber men. The lack of female representation at the top contrasts sharply with the number of women in different segments of the travel market. Travel Weekly notes that 70% of women make all travel-buying decisions, almost ¾ of travel agents are women, and, on average, 65% of the hospitality workforce is female. The gap between the number of women consuming and selling travel and the number of women present in high decision-making positions is troubling—for female economic empowerment as well as the travel industry’s ability to keep up as women gain more economic power. Lee’s assessment is that since the travel industry doesn’t need to focus on getting women in on the ground floor, businesses should hone their focus in on getting women up the ladder.

Pro-women initiatives are good for social equality and for the bottom line.
There’s no question that affording women more economic opportunity in executive positions is a stride towards gender equality. And according to Travel Weekly, travel companies should make conscious efforts to narrow the gender gap because not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also a smart business decision. Ongoing McKinsey & Co. research has found that companies with more women at the top perform better than those with fewer female leaders.

There is still much to be done in the pursuit of workforce equality in the travel industry, and Lee herself says she won’t see the day her work is done in her lifetime. However, she is hopeful about the amount of change and engagement she has seen so far. EmpireCLS applauds these efforts towards equality and salutes all of the inspiring women in the travel industry, including those we’re proud to call members of the EmpireCLS team.

Photo: flickr

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