Aaron Hocking, EMEA Regional Director at Intrepid Travel, talks about the company’s quest to encourage more women into tour leading

Diversity and inclusion have always been a key part of everything we do here at Intrepid Travel. We know that our biggest strengths often lie in our differences and having the freedom for everyone to be themselves is essential. Over the past few years, it’s come to our attention that while 60% of our office employees are female, the same is true of just 22% of our leaders. This is something we’ve been actively working to change ever since.

In 2017, we made a commitment to the UN Global Compact and its Sustainable Development Goals around gender equality by becoming signatories of their Women’s Empowerment Principles. As part of this commitment our goal has become to double the number of female Intrepid leaders globally by 2020. While this may not sound like a difficult target in many countries, in more traditional societies recruiting women is a much greater challenge.

One example of this is in India. Tourism can empower women in many ways, yet in 2014, we only had two female Intrepid leaders working in the Indian regions. Being a tour leader is seen as an unsuitable job for a woman in India, given that it involves long periods away from home and their families. We knew there was an appetite from women to work in the travel industry and wanted to encourage them to work with us. By specifically advertising for female applicants, launching targeted social media campaigns and spending time with applicants’ families to assure them of their relative’s safety – we now have 22 female Indian leaders, more than any other travel company.

This continued focus on diversity and inclusion resulted in a 2% shift in the gender diversity amongst our employees. This has also meant that 42% of Intrepid staff worldwide are women, with the number of global female tour leaders now reaching an improved 27%. We are now on track to meet our global target of doubling the number of female leaders we employ by 2020.

We’re beginning to see inspiring developments in Morocco too. Where Zina Bencheikh, General Manager of Peak DMC Marrakech (our operations arm in Europe and Morocco) is working tirelessly to break down local gender stereotypes. After raising the issue with Moroccan tourism universities and government representatives, Peak DMC Marrakech now employs 16 female leaders – a complete overhaul in a region that was exclusively male.

Although we’re making headway, there’s still plenty more to be done at the Intrepid Group as well as within the wider travel sector. Every tour operator needs to look at more ways to combat gender stereotypes and focus on creating more openings for those trying to break into the field.

I envisage a future where people of all ages, physical abilities, cultures, races, religions, sexual orientations and genders will have equal opportunities. This is an important aspect of our responsible business approach and something I hope can be addressed more widely throughout the tourism industry.