Does travel favour gender equality?

Although the travel industry on the whole seems to fare better than other sectors, the sector still has too few women in senior management positions. This statement was made recently by Dr Amanda Potter, chief executive of Zircon Management.

Even with this in mind, the travel industry has reason to feel good about itself, because research shows that woman regularly hold senior management positions. The travel and hospitality sector is one of the front runners in this aspect.

Research carried out by Grant Thornton showed that hospitality is the third best industry for women to work in senior management positions, with one third of these positions being taken by women. This statistic is only just beaten by healthcare and education, where senior management roles are held by women, are at 41%.

In a recently published white paper by Diageo, ‘Women in Tourism & Hospitality: Unlocking the Potential and Talent Pool’, it was shown that 40% of managerial positions were held by women.

Results also showed that women were in high profile roles in the travel sector. Role models such as Virgin Holidays (with former managing director Amanda Wills), IHG Europe (with chief executive Angela Brav), and EasyJet (with chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall) showed that there are many positions in the sector which have women in these senior positions.

However, unfortunately, it appears that these instances are more the exception than the rule, with most boardrooms being vastly under-represented by women. Women represent 70% of the workforce globally in the travel sector, so this is indeed an appalling statistic.

The Diageo Research showed that while women might fill up to 40% of managerial positions, they still accounted for less than 20% of all the general management positions. Even more alarming was the fact that between 5% - 8% were board positions.

By improving the boardroom gender balance, we will see not only an improvement in performance, but also a better reflection of the industry’s workforce.

In a report by McKinsey titled ‘Diversity Matters’ it came to light that there is a significant relationship between a diverse leadership and an improved financial performance. Other studies have also shown that this relationship between women on boards of directors leads to better overall performance.

Because companies are now starting to increase the number of women at board levels, they are also more able to better able to view the talent pipeline, and this is now opening more opportunities for women.

Unfortunately, however, it seems that the ‘glass ceiling’ still exists. In order to better understand the challenges that women face in getting to boardroom level, Zircon has launched an enquiry about this and named the research ‘What women bring to the boardroom’. They are currently carrying out research in this respect, and are interviewing women at board level across many sectors.


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