Travel must undo the backward steps on diversity issues made during the pandemic, a lobby group has urged.
Speakers at a Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure webinar said much work on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) had unintentionally been undone during the pandemic, but new working practices adopted during Covid would bring long-term benefits.
The webinar followed publication of a report, Guarding Against Unintended Consequences: The Impact of Covid-19 on Gender and Race & Ethnic Diversity in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure.
Elliott Goldstein, managing partner of recruitment firm MBS Group, one of the report’s authors, said: “Without a doubt, we have taken three steps backwards. However many steps forward we take is up to us.”
Goldstein said large-scale redundancies had “exacerbated existing imbalances”; with areas like IT and finance seen as essential for survival and which traditionally employed more men than women.
WiHTL founder Tea Colaianni said the impact of senior women leaving companies during Covid “would set us back 5-10 years”.
Katy Bennett, PwC director, people consulting, said research among 1,500 employees in August had found that 65% of women interviewed had been furloughed compared with only 56% of men.
However, the panel said the D&I issue was now here to stay.
Bennett said that following the 2008 financial crisis “nobody was talking about this topic”. “The fact we are having these conversations tells you things are changing.”
Goldstein said that while “the industry’s first priority must be survival”, the pandemic had forced business leaders to think more holistically, with home working giving more of an insight into employees’ lives and with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum during the crisis.
“BLM is just part of this. Businesses are going to require from their customers a social licence to operate. If customers see an all male, pale, stale group of executive leaders, they may think ‘Is this something I want to be part of?’”
Homeworking was also bound to change attitudes, he said.
“Over the last period of time it has been impossible not to bring your whole self to work. We are starting to relate to people in a very, very different way. I think that will yield diversity benefits as well.”