Opinion: Is travel a champion of gender equality?

Opinion: Is travel a champion of gender equality?

Despite doing better than most sectors, the travel industry still has too few women in senior management positions, says business psychologist Dr Amanda Potter, chief executive of Zircon Management

When it comes to gender equality, there are many reasons for the travel sector to feel good about itself.

Research on women in senior management positions regularly finds travel and the wider hospitality industry as one of the front-runners.

For example, 2015 research by Grant Thornton placed hospitality as third-best industry for women in senior management positions globally, with one third of such roles held by females – beaten only by healthcare and education, each with 41% of senior management roles held by women.

Meanwhile a whitepaper by Diageo, Women in Tourism & Hospitality: Unlocking the Potential in the Talent Pool, found that women hold just under 40% of managerial positions.

There are also plenty of high profile women in the sector acting as role models, such as Virgin Holidays former managing director Amanda Wills, IHG Europe’s chief executive Angela Brav and easyJet chief executive, Dame Carolyn McCall.

Under-represented

Unfortunately, the likes of Wills, Brav and McCall are the exception rather than rule, and women are still appallingly under-represented in the boardrooms of an industry where they make up 70% of the workforce globally.

Indeed, the Diageo research found that while women make up just under 40% of all managerial positions, they accounted for less than 20% of general management positions and between just 5% and 8% of board positions.

Improving the boardroom gender balance is not only imperative in terms of better reflecting the industry’s workforce, but also in terms of improving performance.

McKinsey’s “Diversity Matters” report found a statistically significant relationship between a more diverse leadership and better financial performance. Other studies have similarly found this significant relationship between the percentage of women on boards of directors and better performance.

Gate-crashing the boardroom

Increasing the number of women at board level is starting to influence how companies view their talent pipeline, and this is opening new opportunities for women at work.

However, barriers to gender equality persist. The dreaded glass ceiling still exists.

To better understand both the challenges women face getting to the boardroom and their experiences once they are there, we at Zircon have launched a new piece of research called “What Women Bring to the Boardroom”.

We are currently carrying out the research, interviewing women at board of directors level across multiple sectors.

If you are a successful businesswoman and would like to be involved in this research, please email chloe.waller@zircon-mc.co.uk

Amanda Potter is a chartered occupational psychologist and chief executive of management consultancy Zircon Management and talent tech business BeTalent.

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