Two new categories in the 2018 IBM iX everywoman in Travel Awards saw industry bosses Clare Tobin and Stuart Leven win trophies. They tell Abigail Healy why it’s important to them
Award: Leader of Change
A woman making a significant contribution towards the strategic direction of the business through best practices, employee engagement, improved productivity and innovation.
As a great example of a senior leader who has worked to ensure an equal balance of male and female employees, can you tell us about what you’ve achieved?
I have always taken the view that all genders are equal. There has previously been an absence of role models, but as more women achieve senior positions, more support is there for the next generation of female leaders to be mentored and their talent spotted earlier on in their careers. So the right person for the job and the cultural fit is key. I strongly believe that equality is enabling all to succeed and believing in females who may have been overlooked by their previous employers. People respond well to those who are sure of what they want, and we have been amending workplace policies to invest in training plus leadership and management development that will help continue achieving the step-change.
Why is it important to you?
It’s important to me to see a board that comprises both genders. Barriers for women achieving senior positions are breaking down, but there is still more to do. Women and men have different qualities and interpersonal skills. This brings a fantastic combination that can create an amazing leadership team.
Have you come up against much opposition?
I’ve always had great support while changing the strategy at Olympic Holidays. There were people that felt nervous about change and the new Olympic. But communication was key during this period as well as strength in the decision and seeing it through.
How did it feel to win the award?
It was an amazing feeling to be recognised by such a fantastic platform for women. I feel honoured to be with women and men who I have enjoyed working with or alongside. One of the most emotional parts of my career was returning back to the Olympic office and the team. They were so thrilled and made a collection with their own money to buy me a beautiful present to show their appreciation. This was so humbling and the best gift any leader can receive. It means my team can see that they have amazing opportunities and I am now working with them to recognise their talent for 2019 and beyond.
In what ways do you continue to champion women?
I mentor three women in and outside of our industry. I also recognise and support my managers and the talent in the company in outlining new opportunities.
What are the biggest challenges facing women in business today?
I passionately believe that our industry has a strong social mission with the power to transform and take a positive role. I am extremely fortunate to have had an amazing journey through my career, meeting dynamic and like-minded people. I believe the biggest challenge for women in the industry is self-belief. Ensure you have mentors, both male and female, who can guide you through new or difficult situations. There’s a world of opportunity where innovation abounds in this constantly changing industry.
What is your advice for women who are keen to progress in the travel industry?
Always believe that you can be and are the best, and always be authentic to who you are.
Award: Male Agent of Change bestowed upon a man for his active commitment to advancing the progress of women working in the travel industry.
Why was addressing RCL Cruises’ gender pay gap so important to you?
As a business, we are really good at diversity and equality, so when our initial review of the numbers showed we had a gap, I wanted to clearly understand the drivers of this and what we could do to address it.
How did you decide to tackle the issue and drive real change in the company?
We had to determine if we had a pay equality issue or a gender pay gap. Our issue was the latter with some of the challenges being industry-specific. For example, marine functions are historically led by men. In other areas, we recognised we had a great female talent pipeline, but could do more to help with their progression.
What other initiatives came out of this decision?
We pulled together a cross-section of leaders and took external advice from everywoman. This led to a list of clear, focused actions we could put into practice for short-term gain, and some we could embed into our processes to ensure ongoing progress. A great example of this was training for all recruiting managers in unconscious bias, so all candidates had an equal chance for progression.
Why it is important to champion and empower women in business?
The best businesses have balanced leadership, and encouragement and support can help to facilitate this. We’re pretty good at this; two of our three vice presidents in Europe are women. It does help having senior role models, but if your DNA means all leaders live and breathe equality and diversity, then the benefits for your business come through in your performance and employee satisfaction levels.
How did it feel to win the award?
I was surprised. I think the award recognises that, as a leadership group, we focus on the right things.
What advice would you offer other male leaders looking to address the gender balance within their organisations or to empower their female staff?
The biggest eye-opener for me from our work with everywoman was that the primary challenge women face over men when applying for promotion or progression is self-confidence. Recognition of this and support of candidates can really help facilitate the right progression decisions.
Other new awards for 2018 included:
Award: International Inspiration – a woman working outside the UK & Ireland who is a role model for women in her community.
Meenu Vadera, founder, Azad Foundation and Sakha Consulting Wings
Having spent 13 years working for Action Aid in Uganda, Vadera moved to India to set up two social enterprises offering employment to oppressed and marginalised women by training them to become professional chauffeurs. Based in New Delhi, she is now changing the lives of more than 650 women, helping to generate in excess of €215,000 in collective annual income.
Award: Executive Leader – a woman making a significant direct financial contribution to the commercial success of the business.
Julia Kemp, director of international sales and partnerships, Avis Budget Group
Recognising the value of a diverse workforce, Kemp has helped Avis Budget Group’s previously male-dominated board become more gender-balanced with a total of six male and five female directors. She believes technology underpins the growth of businesses, so she was determined to help the company invest heavily in it, ensuring outdated systems were replaced or upgraded. Through her innovation, direct marketing activity has generated more than £42 million.