Jeannette Linfoot, board-level business advisor and everywoman in Travel Awards judge, explains:
It’s hard to believe that in 2018 – one hundred years since the first women got the right to vote in the UK – we are still talking about the lack of gender diversity at senior levels and in the boardroom.
Women make up nearly 70% of the workforce in the travel industry, yet there is a marked under-representation of women in senior positions: less than 40% of all managerial positions, less than 20% of general management roles and a meagre 5-8% of board positions.
And yet the recent Women in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure report showed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have above-average financial returns. For every 10% increase in gender diversity, profit rose by 3.5%. The case is clear – businesses that have a good gender balance at all levels, perform better than those that don’t.
The government’s Hampton Alexander review has set a target of 33% female representation across boards and executive committees by 2020, so we have some way to go.
There are two sides to this. Businesses need to do more to create the right environment – with initiatives to achieve gender diversity – while women also need to help themselves.
Diversity and inclusion strategies need to be led from the very top.
A good example of a company doing just that is easyJet. While currently only 6% of pilots are female, the airline’s board has set a target to increase this to 12%, and is actively taking steps to make that happen.
Women in business need to surround themselves with the right people, take inspiration from positive role models, get themselves a mentor or coach and – most importantly – be brave and push themselves forward.
They shouldn’t be afraid to fail when new opportunities arise. Often, those who take these opportunities will surprise themselves with what they can achieve.
We should remind ourselves that while there is still much to do, we have made progress and there are some great initiatives out there.
Executive search company Odgers Berndtson and UK Hospitality are about to launch a mentoring programme for women – a great initiative in which I am involved as a mentor – while November 14 will see the everywoman in Travel awards ceremony celebrate the amazing female talent across our industry.
It’s a tough process, so watch this space to see who our fantastic winners will be in 2018 in such diverse categories as Tomorrow’s Leader, Entrepreneur, Executive Leader, Leader of Change, International Inspiration and Male Agent of Change.
From a personal perspective, I’ve had an amazing career in travel, and have been lucky to work with, and for, some truly inspirational women and men. I’ve often been the only woman in the boardroom, but I believe that if you have confidence, self-belief that you deserve to be there and a supportive network, then any problems should fall away. Deliver results in your own way, and those results should speak for themselves.
Let’s celebrate the great female talent we already have, but all do our bit to support and develop an amazing pipeline of future female leaders – then perhaps we can stop talking about it and just be proud to have a truly diverse talent base at all levels across our industry.
Being a woman in business may be a bit like ballroom dancing – you have to do all the same steps as a man but backwards and in high heels – but it’s a truly rewarding place to be.
The IBM iX everywoman in Travel Awards ceremony will take place at East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf on November 14. To book tickets, visit everywoman.com/events-awards