The theme of last month’s International Women’s Day was “be bold for change”, calling on the masses to “help forge a better working world – a more inclusive, gender-equal world”.
We are very lucky in the travel industry to have so many talented women in high-profile positions, and this permeates all the way down through to sales consultants and modern apprentices, administration assistants and accounts personnel.
Although we have recently noticed an increase in the number of young men wanting to join us at Barrhead Travel, overall we employ a much higher proportion of women, and the majority of our directors are female – most having been with us for many years. Our financial director and myself are the lone male voices in the boardroom.
And perhaps that is why we have been so successful. Indeed, a recent study found that companies perform better when they have at least one female executive on the board, and a report by the accountancy firm Grant Thornton showed that publicly traded companies with male-only executive directors missed out on £430 billion of investment returns in the past year.
The Treasury has also announced that its ambitious plan to increase the number of women in senior positions in the financial services sector was adopted by companies responsible for half of the country’s finance workers. The Women In Finance Charter offered the chance to increase diversity of thought and for the sector to better reflect the society it serves.
My bet would be that travel has one of the best equality records, after the NHS. And according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I might not be far wrong. Women make up 49.6% of the total UK workforce but the major difference in travel is that there is a higher proportion of women in senior positions than any other sector.
Previous studies have found that female and male directors often hold differing perspectives on subjects ranging from what customers want to risky corporate ventures. So is there not a large opportunity cost for companies with male-only executive boards? Those businesses stuck in the past are not fully unlocking their growth potential and, like a world still addicted to fossil fuels, these companies are suffering now.
There you have it – in an era where economies trade within globalised markets, facilitating female participation at a decision-making level within companies might just give you a competitive edge.
Bill Munro is chairman of Barrhead Travel