This year will see the launch of the inaugural everywoman in Travel Awards, searching out the most exceptional women working within the UK travel industry.
Sophie Dekkers, UK country director at easyJet, is a member of the judging panel and believes that mentoring women in the industry is key – with her employer supporting her all the way.
She joined easyJet in 2009 as customer insight manager before rising up the ranks.
Dekkers is a founding member of easyJet’s Women’s Network, and has spoken at a number of events, including the keynote slot for Management Today’s Inspiring Women’s Conference. “I’m lucky that easyJet has the same agenda,” she says.
In the year ending September 2015, women made up 6% of easyJet’s new pilot intake and 5% of its total pilot community, before the airline’s Amy Johnson Flying Initiative was launched in October, with the aim of doubling the number of female new entrant pilots to 12% in two years. Such was the success of the initiative that easyJet was able to achieve the 12% target in its first year.
Dekkers continues: “I mentor eight women in the industry, and have sadly had to put a limit on it, although I do try to help anyone who comes and asks for advice.
“I am fortunate to have had Carolyn McCall as a role model. Before she joined easyJet, I thought women had to make a trade-off between having a family and leading a business, but she has proven that it is possible to be a mum-of-three as well as Ftse 100 chief executive.
“It was also a great learning experience to observe her in action – the way she manages to control a room, but not by raising her voice, swearing or becoming masculine, as I’d seen other female leaders do.
“She did tell me I’d be an anomaly in the playground, being a full-time working mum, but as long as I make time for the school plays and sports days, then I’m there for the moments that matter.”
In fact, Dekkers believes crossing the playground and actually going into schools as working women can enthuse young girls.
“I didn’t come from a privileged background or go to a private school, but by sharing my journey it shows hard work pays off in the end,” she says.
Dekkers also believes that the industry needs to get better at giving visibility to “behind the scenes” roles in travel, such as network development, pricing and digital.
“When people find out I work for easyJet and I’m female, they automatically assume I’m a member of cabin crew,” says Dekkers.
“It’s only when I have a chance to explain my role that they get excited to find out about all the other opportunities in the industry.”
Dekkers’s message for anyone thinking of making a nomination for the everywoman in Travel Awards is clear: “It’s a great way to provide visibility and inspiration to others, as well as raising your profile and getting on people’s radars, which I think is half of the secret of career success.
“We need to be better at patting ourselves on the back and getting the recognition we deserve, as it’s a real confidence booster – and this is a fantastic opportunity to do so.”
Visit everywoman.com/events-awards/2017-everywoman-travel-awards to make a nomination before September 8
The everywoman in Travel Awards is built on the success of the everywoman awards, seminars and personal development programmes in other sectors, as well as the NatWest everywoman Awards, celebrating entrepreneurs.
TTG Media is helping promote the scheme in the industry and will present the first everywoman in Travel Tomorrow’s Leader Award. The awards will take place at the East Wintergarden in London’s Canary Wharf on November 16.
The full category list is:
One to Watch: This is awarded to an individual in education/further education who demonstrates a passion for the travel industry. This award seeks to identify young game-changers.
Apprentice: An apprentice who is embracing the opportunity the industry offers.
Tomorrow’s Leader: A woman under 30, making a significant contribution to the sector. The applicant must be under 30 as of December 31, 2017.
Entrepreneur: An owner / operator of a travel business that has been operating for three years or more, whose vision will inspire other women to start their own enterprise.
Above & Beyond: A woman that has truly gone above and beyond in her role to help drive the organisation’s success.
Team Leader: A woman whose team leadership has greatly contributed to the firm’s success.
Leader: A woman making a significant contribution to the strategic direction of the business.