As a long standing advocate for women in the sector (amongst other things, I co-launched the Shine Awards for Women Achievement in Travel Tourism, Events and Hospitality in 2004 now run by Women 1st) I was delighted when WTM asked me to Chair their new Women in Travel sessions at this year’s WTM.
But I know that many of you (men and women) will have welcomed the news less enthusiastically. Have we not spoken enough about women in the sector? Don’t we know that we need to fish from this pool to secure the future of the industry? Haven’t we already put regulation in place to ensure women sit on companies’ boards? And so the list of moans goes on, but – to put the answer in very simple terms – YES and indeed: NO!
In 2004 I spoke at the ITT Malta Conference about the gender gap, the need to support women in the industry and ensure their potential is fully maximized. In 2014 at the same conference, in the very same island, Minister for Tourism and also Equality Helen Grant said: “Business remains dominated by men. Tourism is a big employer of women and young people – 57% of the travel workforce is female. Yet there is still a shortage of women at the top.” Although ten years have gone by, not much has changed for women across the sector.
Better still, something has changed, cue Thomas Cook and EasyJet, but not enough to justify putting a stop to the discussion. Besides, it is neither mine nor my distinguished panelists’ intention to bore our audiences with lots of data about pay gaps or the likes: we know that you know! The sessions will focus instead on the all important entrepreneurship topic on the one hand, with some fabulous women sharing their success secrets, and on the other on women and human rights. This too is a theme of great importance, as in emerging destinations across the globe tourism can become a strong economic empowerment tool for women (and indirectly their extended family) but only if developed sustainably.
So join us for some lively debate on Tuesday and Wednesday at WTM. However, much we wished it was not necessary, it still is, really.