President Trump with his famous misogynist comments has made female representation in the workforce an increasingly frequent topic of conversation. The travel industry, which is dominated by women but traditionally managed by blokes, has recently been making a lot of noise about diversity as well.
The first Women in Travel Awards was held last year with three hundred + participants and generated a lot of positive buzz and excitement. Over 400 industry professionals are flocking to Women for Women on International Women’s Day next month in Sydney. Diversity is raising its head and getting a strong following in the industry.
Young travel industry professionals are thirsty for mentors and keen to learn from leaders and to hear their success stories. The Travel Industry Mentor Experience TIME is a non-profit body offering mentoring opportunities. About 60-70 % of the mentees are female. Does this necessarily mean that we will see stronger female leadership in the industry in the future?
Of course, there are many great female business leaders and entrepreneurs in the travel industry. In many companies’ middle management is predominantly female. However, senior management teams and boards remain almost exclusively male.
So what are the reasons why this situation should change?
1. Diversity drives innovation and frequently leads to financial rewards
Harvard Business Review recently studied how a company’s diversity drives innovation and frequently leads to financial rewards, suggesting that more female leadership in male-dominated fields like travel could bring such benefits.
Research by McKinsey makes it increasingly clear that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially. There are many other similar studies that prove that diversity makes good business sense.
2. Diversity improves the understanding of the customers’ needs
A recent business breakfast I attended discussed the topic “how to get on to boards”, highlighting the need for diversity on boards. For example, a senior male board member said, “Male boards managing media companies that produce women’s magazines don’t understand the needs and wants of the customer. It doesn’t make business sense.”
Many brands now realize that token product strategies designed by male executives for female customers, such as leaving orchids and chocolates in a perfumed hotel room, just don’t cut it anymore.
3. It is not just ticking the box
Creating a diversity culture isn’t just about ticking a box to get more ‘girl power’ or ‘the right thing to do’. Diversity is about creating a culture of inclusion, variety and different perspectives. These include gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age as well as racial mix and so on. Diversity, in all these attributes will have a positive impact on productivity, innovation and rewards. It’s about respect for customers, employees and it makes good business sense.
Who are the change agents?
Which companies will reap the benefits of adhering to the proven principle that diversity makes good business sense? Some companies are leading the change. Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com is one of the few female CEO’s in online travel to employ people from more than 100 different nationalities, 50% of whom are women. Booking.com found that they were able to create better, customer-centric product features more quickly with a more diverse product team. Diversity and inclusion is also at the core of Amadeus IT Group culture. These are great examples of the power of diversity in successful companies, especially as travel technology has a mostly male dominated workforce. Females are under-represented in IT, it’s not a career they generally choose.
There is compelling proof that diversity brings success. Our customers demand personalised services and products. A diverse workforce will be more equipped to innovate and deliver services and products targeted at different traveller tribes and generate better profits. Cultural intelligence makes sense and money.