That was the advice from a panel at the TTG Diversity & Inclusion in Travel conference in Westminster, moderated by TTG Media group editor Pippa Jacks.
Jamie-Lee Abtar, UK chapter manager at the Caribbean Tourism Organization, shared her experience “as a black woman in this industry” and said she had found the recruitment process in travel “challenging”.
“Recruitment was really daunting for me,” she told delegates. “You go to second and third interviews and you don’t get a response… you’re doing all these presentations and then getting turned away.
“I had the experience, the knowledge, but it just wasn’t happening for me, so I forced myself… to be inventive, and I used things like LinkedIn to search for management roles. When my first boss met me, she said: ‘I don’t understand why you’re not taken.’ It’s an unconscious bias.”
Farina Azam, partner at Travlaw, agreed. “I deal with a huge number of travel companies and when I look at their make-up I think there’s a huge problem. It is a very white industry – when you go to events there’s a sea of white faces. I don’t think the travel industry reflects the ethnic minority breakdown of the UK at all.”
Azam added she believed “difference was good”, and said she was “always happy to discuss things” but admitted that “sometimes it goes too far”.
“None of these people mean to be inappropriate, but I don’t think they have an understanding of where the line is,” she told delegates. “For instance, someone at a dinner once mentioned the ‘P-word’ in a conversation – no one wants to hear that.
“If you’re not used to being in an environment where you are the only brown face, it can dent your confidence.”
Abtar added a rethink in how people are recruited into travel could help to address this. “We need to move away from having names on CVs, as people may have bias just by seeing that. It’s good to interview people based on their experience and skills – that’s what matters.”
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