Ahead of the first ever TTG Diversity & Inclusion in Travel conference this July, keynote speaker Josh Weinstein, Carnival UK president, discusses with Daniel Pearce the benefits of truly embracing diversity at work.
As UK president of the world’s largest leisure travel company, Josh Weinstein could not hold its multi-cultural workforce closer to his heart.
Carnival Corporation employs more than 120,000 people worldwide – a “United Nations of cruise”, as he puts it. But Weinstein’s passion for diversity and inclusion starts much closer to home.
“Growing up in New York, spending 16 years living in Miami and being married to Caroline who is from Guatemala, I’ve had exposure to a huge variety of people, cultures, views, experiences, religions and customs,” he explains.
“I’ve had the advantage of seeing and feeling first-hand the benefits of diversity and the richness it can bring.”
Weinstein relocated to Hampshire when he became UK president for P&O Cruises and Cunard owner, Carnival, in 2017, following 16 years rising through the ranks at Carnival Corporation’s Miami headquarters.
He has overseen a number of steps since then that have continued to strengthen the progressive culture at Carnival UK – and which he will be discussing at the TTG Diversity & Inclusion in Travel conference at the QEII Centre in London on 3 July.
“Research and experience tell us diverse teams make better decisions and more easily identify and connect with new markets,” Weinstein declares. “I don’t think anyone would disagree with that business case.
“Surely most of us now look in the mirror in the morning and say ‘I want to do the right thing’.”
However willing they are to change, the biggest challenge for travel businesses looking to improve their diversity can be identifying where to begin.
Carnival UK has long been a forward-looking employer, moving many women into senior positions at Carnival House in Southampton, as well as developing young leaders across the company. A number of the business’s young employees have featured in the TTG 30 Under 30 programme since 2012.
More recently, a raft of new initiatives have come out of Southampton. While these are often employee-led, there’s a clear pattern of support and encouragement that goes right to the top.
“We went into this with a recognition that we are going to try lots of things, large and small – some will work, some won’t,” says Weinstein.
Initiatives have included Athena, a network launched by employees aimed at ensuring all women at Carnival UK have equal opportunities, established in 2018.
More recently, a bespoke Women In Leadership programme has been supporting women in the business as they move into senior management roles. And, on the marine side, Carnival is working with nautical colleges to get more women cadets on its ships.
“Research and experience tell us that diverse teams make better decisions and more easily identify and connect with new markets”
Elsewhere, Spectrum is a Carnival House LGBT+ network led by former TTG 30 Under 30 member Tom Driscoll, and Carnival’s status as an affiliate member of Stonewall is more evidence of how seriously it takes LGBT issues, helping it understand where it’s doing well and where it can do better.
P&O Cruises and Cunard are headline sponsors of Southampton Pride, sending a clear message about what the company believes in – not only to local people, but to staff too.
“What Pride stands for is really much broader than LGBTQ+,” Weinstein enthuses. “Our business isn’t unique in that our agenda and our activities around gender and sexuality are probably a little more developed and mature than other aspects.
“We’re really proud of Athena and Spectrum, and our support for the agenda in those areas. It is about engendering a truly inclusive environment for everyone.”
Carnival UK is also a member of the Inclusive Employers organisation, which helps companies build inclusive workplaces, while its affiliation with the Princes Trust is aimed at ensuring equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of their economic background.
But Weinstein describes something more straightforward as the key to a diverse workforce at Carnival UK – a fully accessible flexible working policy.
“Our flexible working framework isn’t targeted just at those with caring responsibilities,” he continues. “It is framed as an approach that supports everyone.
“It’s about understanding that everyone is an individual, and that’s really what diversity and inclusion is all about – thinking about the employee not as an employee, but as a person.”
There is clearly a lot going on in Carnival House to help those who are already on the payroll, but what is the company doing to attract a more diverse workforce to the business?
Weinstein believes promoting the company’s flexible working policies will play a role in attracting the best staff, as well as retaining them, and he is very keen to ensure a fair recruitment policy.
“There are tons of little things we do, such as 50/50 shortlists when we recruit,” he explains. “Any time we go out to a recruiter, the requirement is they have to bring back a shortlist that’s evenly balanced [in terms of gender] – we’re slowly but surely making some progress.”
Carnival has also been working with Mumbelievable, a consultancy which helps workers return to work after having a child.
“Diversity and inclusion is all about understanding that everyone is an individual, and thinking about the employee not as an employee but as a person”
“We need to push for more women in senior positions – particularly on the marine side, which is still male-dominated. But we have just appointed our first female first engineer, Leanne Robertson,” Weinstein tells me.
It’s one thing having effective policies in place but it’s another thing entirely communicating those policies across the team. How does Weinstein guarantee that?
“By beating the gong through regular conversations with my team on these issues as well as the senior leaders below them, and making sure it’s on their agenda,” he says.
“It’s not something you say once and let go – you’ve got to keep saying it. As you’d expect, we already do a certain amount of training for all managers on what leading people entails at Carnival UK, and we set out our position clearly through our purpose and values.
“We’re reviewing many of our policies to ensure managers are supported and knowledgeable when it comes to having good conversations and appropriate behaviours with their teams.
“By the end of the year, we’ll have rolled out cultural intelligence training for all our people, ship and shore, to make sure everyone understands what an inclusive environment looks and feels like.”
At Carnival UK, it sounds like the team is already a long way into the journey.
Josh Weinstein is among the speakers from inside and outside of travel speaking at the first TTG Diversity & Inclusion in Travel conference at the QEII Centre on 3 July 2019.
Exclusive research on the approach of travel companies to diversity and inclusion will be presented by PwC, with easyJet among those detailing their own diversity journey.
Aimed at anyone leading teams or setting company culture in the travel industry, the event is sponsored by Intrepid Travel and supported by PwC and everywoman. Tickets are £199+VAT until 3 May.
Learn how you can improve your business and promote workplace equality at
The TTG Diversity & Inclusion in Travel conference.