Today is International Women’s Day – a day for celebrating women’s social, economic, political and cultural achievements.
Marked on 8 March annually, it is an important opportunity to raise awareness about equality and gender parity issues, as well as fundraising for female-focused charities, to help create a better future for all.
This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, but what exactly does it mean for a world in the grip of a pandemic? “Do we not have enough challenges already?” you may ask.
We certainly do. But the fact is women have been more detrimentally impacted by the pandemic than men. Statistics show women were more likely to have been made unemployed in the first month of lockdown. School closures have also exacerbated pre-existing gender inequalities, with 70% of women saying they were now completely or mostly responsible for homeschooling and childcare.
All this has resulted in the devastating prediction that women’s economic progression will actually decline for the first time in a decade, returning to 2017 levels. When you combine that with how difficult Covid-19 has been for our industry, it paints a troubling picture for women in travel.
Hearteningly though, people across our industry are taking action to support and champion talent. Women in Travel have set up free mentoring and training for those who have lost their job due to Covid-19 and Intrepid Travel are celebrating women who have shown outstanding strength, resilience or innovation during the pandemic with a new peer-nominated competition.
At Royal Caribbean Group, through our partnership with everywoman, we have made advice-based content that enhances the roles of women in business available through the RCL Cares online agent hub.
“Never waste a good crisis” has been our mantra at Group over the past 12 months and we have used this pause in service to take a forensic look at our brand, what we offer the world and what we give back to our guests.
Diversity and inclusion has always been at the heart of that and, poetically for this column, one of the last times we were in the water was when Celebrity Cruises’ all-female bridge and onboard leadership team made history with a barrier-breaking International Women’s Day sailing in March 2020.
That sailing was only possible because we made it a priority to lead the maritime industry into a more diverse future, growing the number of women on our bridge teams from 3% to 28%.
Even in the pandemic there have been important promotions among our trailblazing bridge team as we remain committed to challenging conventional thinking and setting new standards across the seven seas.
While writing this I have also reflected on what #ChoosetoChallenge means for me personally, and it comes down to everyone having the confidence and support to be a true ally. In the 80s and 90s, many of us perpetuated inequality by not calling out discerning comments. It was easy to think “just let it go” when you felt like one of the lucky few to have got a space at the table.
It takes confidence to challenge problematic behaviour; confidence in yourself and your experience, and confidence that the colleagues around you will have your back. This is what makes male peers invaluable allies. Women, and all those who are underrepresented, will not achieve meaningful change without allies.
So, even though we have plenty of challenges on our hands already, I implore all those in our beloved travel industry not to let this pandemic halt the progress that we have made to achieve equality for all.
We must move forward stronger. We must all be better allies. And we must choose to challenge.
Jo Rzymowska is vice-president and managing director EMEA at Celebrity Cruises