Nurture and support your staff, no matter what their gender, says Sharon Munro, chief executive of Barrhead Travel

Gender equality and the gender pay gap are hot topics still hitting the headlines and will most likely continue to do so this year and beyond. Earlier this month, at the Institute of Travel & Tourism Conference in Sicily, industry leaders discussed what the travel industry could do to increase female presence in the boardroom.

Given the majority of the workforce in our industry is female (on a side-note, shouldn’t we also be doing more to attract men to entry-level roles?), it is disappointing to still see such meagre figures reported when it comes to women in senior roles.

At Barrhead Travel, our senior management team is 70% female, thanks to our long-standing internal progression plans, or ‘Grow’, as we now refer to it. The majority of senior appointments have been made internally and, as most of our workforce has been female, the subsequent promotions have mainly been women.

That said, we still reported a gender pay gap of 13.9% back in April. Like businesses in all sectors and industries across the UK, this was as a result of males making up the majority of employees in departments such as IT and finance.

But the reality for many of the businesses that reported their gender pay gap is that there is a lack of female candidates applying for certain positions.

Recruitment woes

In this day and age, no role should be gender specific – but why then do we still have issues recruiting females in science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors? As part of our expansion, we recently advertised for an IT specialist to join our in-house team. We advertised on all the high-traffic recruitment websites, ran pay-per-click and social media campaigns and used a specialist recruitment agency. However, 96% of the applicants were male.

There is just one woman in our eight-strong IT team. She is home-grown talent, starting her career in a different department as a modern apprentice and moving to IT when we identified her skill set. She is now one of our IT administrators with a progression plan in place to continue her training and development.

I have heard and read suggestions claiming that employers can’t be looking in the right place. Instead of critiquing one another on hiring practices, shouldn’t we work together to share best practices and recruitment innovations?

Equality timeframe

The way the market is at the moment, I believe it will be some time before we see real change in balancing the roles that historically have been dominated by a particular gender.

In the meantime, for the 70-something percent of travel businesses that don’t have female representation at the top, my recommendation is to find your talent from within. Give them all – irrespective of gender – a reason to stay, and allow them to grow and be nurtured by your business. It is about giving people an opportunity to flourish in a supportive environment.

In a sector where almost every single business is dominated by women in entry-level to mid-management roles, I can guarantee that you will find your senior team of tomorrow.