Shuffling the Leadership Deck

People often call my attention that there is something a bit off about the travel industry – and once you know it, you can’t unsee it. Despite women being the ones behind more than 70% of travel purchases and making up 55% of the industry, they barely snag more than 8% of those top-tier board and executive roles. It seems like orchestrating a perfect getaway but missing out on booking accommodation – it just doesn’t quite match up.

While the travel industry knows how to book a trip to anywhere on Earth, it still seems to need help with booking a seat for women at the leadership table.

Here’s a little-known fact: Studies consistently show that companies with a diverse mix of leaders tend to perform better. Think about it – McKinsey & Company found that businesses with a good mix of diverse leaders are 15% more likely to rake in higher financial returns. So, it’s not just about fairness; it’s about boosting innovation and making smarter decisions.

Tourism as a sector offers women considerable options for entrepreneurship that do not require heavy start-up financing. However, women’s tourism entrepreneurship is held back by a lack of access to technology, information, business skills, education and training.

UNWTO, Global Report on Women in Tourism

Having more women in leadership isn’t just a win for companies; it’s a win for travelers too. After all, women make up a big chunk of the people hitting the road. Having different perspectives at the decision-making table means a better understanding of what travelers really want and need.

Now, to the good side of things. There are people out there who are acting on this – rolling out initiatives left and right to give women in the travel industry the leg up they deserve. People paving the way for a more inclusive environment where women can thrive, by shaking things up and encouraging collaboration.

A prime example is wmnsWORK Tourism Accelerator, a 12-week virtual, global accelerator program designed specifically for women and non-binary entrepreneurs in the tourism industry (tour operators, travel advisors, inbound operators, and hotels) during the early stages of their businesses. The program was created to support foundational knowledge and essential mindset skills to navigate tourism entrepreneurship and was built on three pillars: Expert-Led Education, Mentorship, and Community Support. And hey – applications are open for their next cohort, which starts in September 16, 2024.

The ultimate goal is to create businesses that are as diverse as the travelers it serves. In a world where travelers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, the leadership of the travel industry should finally embrace the rich diversity that surrounds it. Let’s add some more colors to the boardroom, shall we?

Half of the world’s population is women, and the other half are their sons. So I hope you find a good reason to celebrate the women in your life this week <3

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