Females in the tourism industry

Females in the tourism industry

The tourism industry generates income and employment worldwide, and it’s no different for Brazil. The segment drives the aviation, hotel, gastronomy, entertainment, and leisure industries and many others; in other words this is a virtuous cycle that fuels the economy and has a direct or indirect impact on more than 50 market sectors. Today it is an activity that, worldwide, is responsible for generating 1 in every 10 jobs, in a universe that brings together a chain of strategic players.

Robust, consolidated and full of opportunities, the market makes room for women and is considered by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as the industry most likely to employ women and minorities because of its wide reach and the opportunities available. This reality of the tourism sector, however, is quite different from that found in society as a whole, where women hold down only 48.5% of the world’s jobs, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO); 43.8%, in Brazil, according to IBGE.

But a point worth reflecting on is: Why, in a world comprising mostly female workers, do we see so few women in leadership positions? The top positions still suffer from a lack of gender equality. The UNWTO shows that of the total number of jobs held by women in the sector, only a minority is in a strategic, or highly qualified position. Most women still occupy lower positions in which they earn less.

When we look at the general spectrum of our society, we realize that this is not an isolated problem of tourism, since according to the IBGE, only 37% of the management posts and board positions in Brazil are occupied by women. The IBGE also came up with a fact that deserves to be treated with more relevance; even though women have a better education and better qualifications and are, consequently, better prepared for the labour market, females have less access to better-paying careers and, when compared to the salaries paid to men, their remuneration is lower .

Throwing light on the topic and underlining the importance of the role of women in the travel and tourism industry is to allow for a profound assessment of the positions they have achieved so far. Having more women in the labour market in leadership positions and earning salaries that reflect their qualifications and education is one of the UN’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals, i.e., the quest for decent work and gender equality are fundamental in a fair and developed society.

This also involves educating and raising the awareness of society. According to a survey conducted by Tree Diversity with about 600 companies, the concept of gender suffers from distortion; 80% of the people interviewed responded wrongly when asked ‘What is gender diversity’. The challenges facing companies are how they achieve greater plurality and how they prepare the environment for this reality.

Female leadership in tourism is a legitimate goal. Just as important as recognizing and empowering women to assume leadership positions is the need to create conditions for them to perform under equal conditions. There are a lot of women in this market and this opens up a real possibility of empowerment, since this involves them with the production environment and gives them a voice and the autonomy they need to stand before society.

The main proposal of this argument is the following: to consider the more active participation of women in the labour market in a positive light, but above all, to highlight the transforming power that female actions in this sector generate. I am by no means urging that only one side of the coin be considered, but that the whole may be combined and a closer look taken at this moment in time, bringing the talent, knowledge and preparation that each professional can add to this booming sector.

A valuable tip from someone who represents a female minority in a leadership position: be inspired and choose a person of your confidence who can guide you and advise you on your executive journey. In the next edition of WTM Latin America we are including a panel dedicated to this subject. The female workforce is mature and self-sufficient enough to conquer spaces and become entrepreneurial in this very fertile market.

Whether in Brazil or globally, there is still a great challenge in many ways. I believe that the evolution of the female presence is, undoubtedly, an extremely relevant  contribution and an important watershed in a market that is welcoming and optimistic.

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With 26 years' experience in the Brazilian and international tourism markets, Luciane Leite is the director of WTM Latin America, for REED Exhibitions, which is the world's number one fairs' and events' organizer. Prior to this, she headed up strategies, teams and projects, for organizations such as São Paulo Turismo, BAHIATURSA and the State of Bahia's former Department of Tourism and Culture. With a degree in Tourism and an MBA in Marketing from ESPM (Superior School of Advertising and Marketing) and with a post-graduate course in tourist destinations from George Washington University, this executive also plays an active role in tourism councils and groups, as well as we having been a speaker on matters related to the industry at conferences in a number of countries.

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