Opinion: Celebrating women at the top is better than imposing quotas

Opinion: Celebrating women at the top is better than imposing quotas

Having a good gender balance in the boardroom can only benefit your business, says Sharon Glancy, founder of Women 1st

Readers of Travel Weekly’s recent The List of 10 women shaping the industry can’t fail to have been impressed.

It highlighted some seriously inspirational women who have reached the top of their game and are helping drive the future of travel.

But some might ask why should you need to create a list of inspirational women? Where’s the list of inspirational men?

As the founder of Women 1st, an initiative that aims to increase the number of women working in senior roles in the hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism, it’s a topic that is close to my heart.

In the travel industry, like many others, the proportion of women declines as the roles get more senior. Our research shows that while 78% of agents are women, only 41% make it into management.

Few will have missed the high-profile debates around gender quotas for boards in recent months.

While Women 1st doesn’t advocate quotas, the debates emphasised how far we still have to go to achieve a good gender balance at the top.

The business case for mixed boards is clear. A recent Credit Suisse Research Institute report found that companies with female board members outperformed those with all-male boards by 26% over a six-year period.

Highlighting the women who have made it to the top, through initiatives like Travel Weekly’s The List, is critical to helping businesses achieve success.

It’s not just about names on lists – these people are role models, and mentors, and proof that women can build a rewarding career in travel and reach the top.

And they can have a real impact on career progression. Our research shows that 61% of women see a lack of role models and mentors as a barrier to their career development, compared to just 31% of men.

That need to create visible role models is why we run our annual Women 1st Shine Awards, which recognises the achievements of women in travel, tourism and hospitality, as well as the mentors and businesses that support their development.

The 2013 awards are open for entry now, and we’re keen to receive nominations. In fact, our last two ‘Woman of the Year’ award winners have come from the travel industry: Victoria Sanders, then of Teletext Holidays, and easyJet’s Carolyn McCall.

We’re also inducting 25 more women into our Women 1st Top 100 Club – an inspirational network of women who act as role models for tomorrow’s female leaders. 

We’d love to hear who you think we’ve missed. And I’d encourage people to send their suggestions for the Travel Weekly list too.

This is about inspiring our future leaders – and the whole industry stands to benefit.

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