Opinion: Travel leads the way for women in the workplace

Opinion: Travel leads the way for women in the workplace

By Sharon Munro, chief executive of Barrhead Travel

While I’ve always admired Jill McDonald as a shrewd business woman, I feel her recent comments about the travel industry needing to do more to attract and retain female employees were misguided.

On the contrary, I believe travel should be celebrated as one of the few industries in which women smashed through the glass ceiling many years ago.

The majority of employers within the sector offer flexible working conditions and attractive benefits, recognising that is the best way to attract and retain quality female staff.

Many of travel’s biggest and most successful companies have women at their helm – Carolyn McCall at easyJet, Carol Marlow at P&O and most recently Harriet Green at Thomas Cook, to name but a few.

The senior management team at Barrhead Travel has always been dominated by women and six of our nine directors are female. This is purely by merit rather than design.

Travel agents, cabin crew and hospitality roles were traditionally female dominated, and many women who started out in these jobs have gone on to work their way up the ranks to very senior positions.

My own career began stacking shelves in a Barrhead Travel store on weekends. Travel is now recognised as an industry where women can flourish and reach the top as easily as their male counterparts which is leading more graduates and successful business women to choose the sector to develop their careers.

Women have long since been recognised as the major decision makers when it comes to travel and therefore it makes sense that fellow women will have a keen understanding of everything from devising strategy on entering new markets to advising families on the best hotel to suit their requirements.

While family commitments previously caused some careers to stall, technology is making it increasingly easy for women to balance a busy home life with successful jobs. The industry has led the way in terms of offering flexible working.

Like many agents, Barrhead Travel employs a large percentage of homeworkers, enabling both men and women to fit their working hours around other obligations. We also have many part time workers, both in branches and head office, and flexible shift patterns to accommodate working mums.

This female friendly approach has been a major contributor to us winning the Best Employer in Scotland award and being named in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For three years running.

So contrary to Jill’s remarks, the travel industry is leading the way when it comes to equal opportunities and flexible working and should be celebrated as an example of best practice.

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