This week I have a guest blogger in Devika Jina Communications and Reporting Coordinator, Youth Career Initiative (YCI). YCI is an initiative of the International Tourism Partnership and Business in the Community and provides training opportunities to young people and women around the world so that they can forge a career in the travel and tourism industry. Devi discusses women in tourism and some of the initiatives she has witnessed in the industry to support gender development.
Creating secure education, training and employment opportunities for women and girls, with equal pay and progression routes, is a key area where business can have an impact on gender equality. I believe that the Tourism industry can be a key player in driving this change, and here’s why.
The Current Picture
In a 2013 report, Equality in Tourism found that women form the majority of the sector’s global workforce at 55.5%. Women clearly play an integral role in the success of the sector, but they are under-represented in leadership positions, with only 15.8% of board members in the tourism industry being women. Furthermore, over a quarter of companies interviewed did not have a single female board member.
These starkly different figures invite the question: ‘why aren’t women adequately represented in the board room?’
- Women have to balance work and family life: 82% of women recognise this as a barrier, compared to 54% of men.
- A lack of senior or visibly successful female role models: 52% of women state this as a barrier, while only 26% of men agree.
- Stereotyping and preconceptions of women’s roles and abilities: while 49% of women recognise this as a hindrance to their career progression, only 14% of men agree.
Addressing the Issue
It’s fantastic to see that there are companies within the tourism sector that are working to address the issue of under-representation of women in the workforce, and the positive part they can play.
Carlson Rezidor’s Women in Leadership (WiL) initiative is a means of achieving their target to increase the percentage of women in senior leadership positions to 30% by the close of 2016.
The initiative works by identifying two champions per region (one male, one female), to provide mentoring, support and clear performance targets to empower female staff across the company to have the conviction and confidence to further their careers.
Recognising this as a timely decision, Kathrine Ohm, Director, People and Performance Management for Carlson Rezidor, explains:
“Within our company our total workforce consists of approximately 57% male and 43% female. On average our business school has close to 60% female participants. And yet, when it comes to women in our senior leadership positions, the picture looks very different.
Somewhere along the line the picture changes and the number of women reduces significantly to 16%. We invest in our talent constantly yet somewhere along the line they stop moving forward in their career. Losing female leaders is a business issue and as a result, we have developed the Women in Leadership (WiL) initiative.”
It is also key to provide opportunities to young women as they embark on their careers, by providing training opportunities like the Youth Career Initiative – a six-month programme, in which students are exposed to vocational training in various hotel departments. Operating in 15 countries, including Ethiopia, Jordan and India, where youth labour force participation rates can be as low as 14.7%, it has been wonderful to see scores of young women graduate and speak of their drive and determination to build a career in the tourism sector.
Going back to the same Equality in Tourism report, we read that 79% of respondents agreed that ‘the presence of female workers greatly improves the quality of their overall workforce’ while 85% affirmed that women ‘greatly improve the talent pool’ from which they recruit internationally. The business case for gender equality is clear, and Carlson Rezidor’s WiL initiative is an encouraging sign of things to come.
Carlson Rezidor are but one company in the sector to develop innovative ways to provide more opportunities and training, and empower the women in their workforce to set more ambitious career goals. I’m excited to see the progress of such initiatives, and more and more women playing an active role in shaping the industry alongside their male colleagues.