As Women’s month draws to a close I wanted to continue where I left off with my last article. It was a positive article that spoke about why there are so many women in the travel industry and I named some of their many strengths.
Sadly there is a negative side to the coin too, one which has been a problem for many years in many industries and that is one of inequality of leadership positions for women. Women are certainly recognised for their skills and in the travel industry, for example, they are seen everywhere, taking important roles and facing great challenges. But …and it is a very big ‘BUT, ’ in travel as in many other industries, Women such as myself in leadership positions are few and far between.
Statistics back me up and Phocuswright’s 2018 gender study showed that women were, in their words, “underrepresented in the travel industry” and it was given a 2 out of 5 rating for gender equality in leadership roles! It is unlikely that these statistics will change much, as it is a global problem and although much talk is bandied about, very little is actually done.
So how can women in leadership roles assist others? Apart from walking the walk and talking the talk, leading by example in other words, we can guide them to be equipped for when opportunity presents itself. Here are a few ideas on how they can change the status quo…
Recognise your own worth and skills
Be a person of value. You are not in any way inferior and as my last article so conclusively demonstrated, we as women in fact have natural skills that are invaluable in business. Multi-tasking, versatility, communication through a natural networking ability to build relationships, these are all great skills that can place you above male colleagues. You just have to use them.
Embrace your inherent status
Woman have been respected as matriarchs in our families and in our communities for centuries, so let’s bring these attributes to the fore. All our inherent skills are invaluable in practice when adopted into our business roles. We should embrace leadership in our own way …and work with how we are wired!
Be heard – with confidence
You have a voice and your opinions count. How can you convince other you are leadership potential if you are not heard? So speak up and do so confidently with the courage of your convictions. Take on leadership roles too. However insignificant they may seem, be a team leader and show you have what it takes.
Communication skills and leadership are inextricably linked. Do whatever it takes to improve your communication skills. Remember women generally have better communication skills than men anyway, so use them. Learn to deal with conflict, don’t be a part of it – be a peacemaker.
Attend as many Women’s empowerment networks as possible – use the power you have as a woman to communicate well with other women. Also join good general networking organisations like Toastmasters and B.N.I (Business Network International). Get connected!
Don’t be victims
At the outset, women should not see themselves as victims. We in South Africa enjoy equality as a constitutional right and so we as women, theoretically at least, do have equal opportunities. The question is when opportunity presents itself, are we adequately equipped to take our rightful places at the helm of a big company?
Knowledge is power
There is an old saying in business – ‘success comes when opportunity meets preparation.’ Are you prepared to take on a leadership role if it presents itself? Are you knowledgeable enough to call yourself a leader?
Remember great leaders lead by example, so through seminars, courses, reading and listening to podcasts of your role models, fill yourself with the most powerful thing of all – knowledge.
Pass the baton
As a woman I know that attaining a significant leadership position is not easy. Don’t be discouraged though. If I can do it many others can too. Start with these principles and when you get that leadership role you have strived for, remember the women who still need to get there.
Pass the baton and assist other woman who are inspired to do the same. Better still, as a leader, be the inspiration that so many women, who have given up hope, so badly need. Lead by example and at every opportunity you get hold your head up high and say “I’m proud to be a leader – and a woman!”LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER