What were the main reasons for starting LEVEL Women?
I had a personal interest in starting a support group for business women, based on my own experience when I was looking for a new challenge and needed external support to discuss my career options. It was following a chance meeting with Ami Taylor [global head of rail at Concur] that together we identified a need to set up a group to support women in our positions. We approached Caroline Strachan [managing partner, Festive Road] and together we launched LEVEL Women, a volunteer-led support network to help the development of women in our industry.
What resources do you offer to women in travel?
We have a Linkedin page featuring content and tips to help promote diversity in the workplace, and encourage women to be the best they can be, and for some, to aim for those boardroom positions.
In our first year we held four sell-out events. Due to their popularity we hope to plan to run a similar number of events in the coming year.
At our first event, we asked the audience to vote on a huge range of topics, to identify the ones of most interest. Topics like personal brand, confidence, presentations and public speaking, managing upwards, diversity, CV writing, salary negotiations were among the most popular.
Compared to other sectors, how do you think business travel is doing when it comes to gender equality?
Like most industries, business travel has a shortfall of women at boardroom level and very few that hold CEO positions despite the industry’s positivity towards gender balance. The industry is supported by many groups and organisations like LEVEL Women, including WINiT, Women in Travel and AWTE.
In addition, many of our industry events and conferences include a session on women in business or diversity in the workplace to try and tackle the issues of inequality. Many companies have their own programmes, too. Traveldoo is part of the Expedia group and since joining I have also been invited to join a group called WELL… Women at Expedia Learning and Leading,
More than 1,500 British companies missed the deadline for filing gender pay results – why do you think this is?
Despite the media interest, the deadline and request for this new information has probably not been seen as a priority for many companies. As public interest has grown, pressure is mounting (along with the threat of a hefty fine!) to deliver the data. A study by the World Economic Forum in November last year reported that it will take 100 years to close the gender pay gap. Worse still, the gap appears to be widening; in 2016, the prediction was 86 years.
What challenges does the business travel sector face when it comes to ensuring equality?
Across all industries, lack of confidence and role models can hold some females back; only 14 per cent of CEOs globally are women. To change the status quo, we need to educate the next generation of females to aim high and ensure that they feel empowered to achieve the same status as their male counterparts.
We also need to change the mindset of organisations and engage with all employees to promote awareness of the importance of diversity in the workplace. In a recent Forbes article, it was reported that 90 per cent of the Fortune 500 have employee and business focus groups to promote diversity, yet women still constitute less that 15 per cent of the executive leadership. This shows that a systemic organisational change is needed to adjust to transform these figures and alter the dynamics in the workforce.