Wanted: Male Allies for Women in Travel Leadership

Every industry emphasizes the importance of gender equality in the workplace. But no industry is quite like the travel industry with regards to the customer: women make close to 85 percent of all travel decisions.  However, when it comes to travel and tourism companies, for every five men at the table, there’s only one woman.…

Every industry emphasizes the importance of gender equality in the workplace. But no industry is quite like the travel industry with regards to the customer: women make close to 85 percent of all travel decisions

However, when it comes to travel and tourism companies, for every five men at the table, there’s only one woman. Additionally, Covid-19 has set back women in the workplace by decades, due to their need to balance work and family life. This can have an incredibly harmful ripple effect, seeing as women already have a tendency to be less confident and boastful of their skills. 

“A recent study by NAPCO found that almost 40% of women feel that their skills were insufficient,” shares Lori Timony, Vice President of Partnerships at Virgin Experience Gifts. “We need to be pulling each other up, and I feel like that’s going to drive the opportunity and ability for other women to recognize their worth.” 

Men are an essential part of the solution as well. “Men can be visible allies!” says Alessandra Alonso, founder of Women in Travel CIC. “Senior leaders are often men and they have the power to act as role models and affect change. But they feel disempowered by the lack of appropriate channels and the fear of making mistakes.”

How can we all — men and women alike — lift women up and ensure they get equal opportunity for managerial and decision-making roles in travel? Here are some things to think about. 

Why Women?

Succeeding in the business world of travel requires empathy. Decision makers must be able to put themselves in the shoes of the traveler and understand what’s going on in their life that’s pushing them to book. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for us to empathize with people who have a very different life than we do. 

This is where women have immense value. Not only do they understand what other women go through on a day-to-day basis and during travels, but studies have found that women are inherently more empathetic. Who better to design, market, and run these tours than women who can speak their language? 

And with more demand for women-centric tours and experiences, there is a great opportunity here to get more women involved at the top. Just last month, El Camino Travel raised $1.1M following a pivot to focus on women travelers. This trend is expected to continue as the number of solo female travelers continues to rise. 

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How Men Can Be Allies

There’s often a fear of ‘getting it wrong’ when it comes to diversity initiatives. But just like anything else, making an attempt is far better than staying silent and ignorant. If you’re a male and your company has no female leadership, what’s one thing you can do every week to advocate for more balance?

Intentionally educating yourself and taking action is the most important thing, but it’s easier said than done. The gender gap isn’t new, at this point, most people are aware that men tend to land leadership roles more often than women. But your organization will benefit from asking the right questions. 

For example, if you can identify a woman who has potential but is struggling with the overdemanding responsibilities at home, how can you reshape a leadership role for them? How can you create a safe space for women to voice their perspectives in meetings? Can you identify ways a woman on your team can add value without needing to commit more time? 

Joining the Male Allyship Network by Women In Travel CIC is another important step men in travel can take. “We engage men as allies and match them with women who can learn from them and in turn act as reverse mentors,” explains Alonso. “It is a powerful combination as learning takes place and self-awareness grows extensively on both sides.”

Women in Travel CIC Founder, Alessandra Alonso at Arival 360 | Berlin, March 2023

How Women Can Move Up the Ladder

You’ve probably heard all the advice before, like ‘ask for what you want’, and perhaps you’ve even taken bold action in the past. It can often feel like an uphill battle just to get the same opportunities as men, and that’s not your fault. But the truth of the matter is, women often have to work a little harder to be seen and heard. 

If moving up the ladder is what you desire, does your organization have some sort of diversity initiative? Do they say they value diversity, but they’re not showing it? If not, then consider leading the charge. If they do have an initiative but you see opportunities to improve upon it and make it more actionable, speak up. Working for a company that says one thing and does another will often build resentment across the entire team. 

With women being the principal bookers and buyers, your perspective is incredibly valuable. Use it to your advantage by questioning the old way of doing things. Consider pioneering your own initiative that aligns with your passions and gifts. 

Operator Takeaway

When you’re making decisions that impact your experience and the marketing/selling of your experience, a woman’s perspective matters immensely. Whether you’re a one-man show or part of the C-suite, take a moment to look at the balance of gender representation within your organization. “It all starts with awareness. Once you have the awareness, that leads to change,” shares Timony. 

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