When I think of the devastation that this pandemic has brought upon the travel and tourism industries in particular, knowing the large number of women who are participants I can’t help but think of the plight of women in general.
Many believe that women are the majority in the travel industry as the people who liaise with the public and corporate Travel Managers, in general, seem to be women. It comes as a surprise to some therefore that even in an industry that offers so many opportunities to women, they are still in the minority in the senior leadership positions.
Women as the breadwinners
It was greatly disturbing to hear that two-thirds of the people who have been made redundant since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown are women. What does this tell us? Certainly, women are the nurturers, and so the closing of schools would have forced many women to spend more time with them.
The assumption is always made that men are the breadwinners and therefore, should retain their jobs. In many cases, I’m sure this is so, but I also do not doubt that in a society where so many children are Fatherless, that a large percentage of those women made redundant were either the sole or at least equal, providers.
The resilient tugboat
When one considers the serious plight of those women, not to mention the thousands of entrepreneurial women who may well lose their Travel Management or Tour Operator SMEs, we see that women need to now be more resilient than ever.
They face not only the ravages of the pandemic but gender equality and from the alarming reports, growing gender abuse as well! Certainly, they are expected to be the tug boats out at sea in the storm. The tough little boats that guide or tow larger vessels to safety in the harbour – so much smaller but so vitally important.
Empowerment is in your hands
Women are working in almost every business sector and there are success stories as we see female leaders begin to make their way up the chain of command. Women are eager to further their careers, they are happy to invest long hours and hard work to achieve their goals. Woman are becoming more and more confident every day in the workplace.
To all women – Empowerment is in your own hands! Take the opportunities that present themselves, even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone. New opportunities are always the stepping stone to broadening your skills base and your circle of influence. Leverage the power of choosing – women need to be intentional about their careers and development as leaders.
The theme at International Women’s day 2020 (which ironically happened on Mar 8th, just as we were about to go into lockdown) was – ‘An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.’
It went on to point out that ‘we can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender-equal world.’
As a Male reading this, let me say to you that these principles apply to all of us and this is a fight that both genders need to address. Rethink systems and challenge assumptions. Look for ways that unconscious bias in the organization affects opportunities and motivation for women.
Today is the best day to start
As the CEO of a major travel group, you could say someone who has had to walk my talk, let me conclude with this…
We cannot, as women, wait for things to happen for us. We must become as capable and as skilled as we can possibly be, and we must understand that COVID-19 is not going to be the only drawback we will suffer.
Today is the best day we will ever get to begin to empower ourselves and as difficult as that may be in challenging times, the more educated and skilled we become the more valuable we become to our companies or clients. Eventually, we become simply too valuable to be ignored.
Stay positive, stay safe and ‘carpe diem’ – seize the day!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER