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Buyers urged to set goals and have confidence

Buyers – especially women – were urged by industry experts at the Business Travel Show in London to set clear goals and have confidence in themselves to achieve career progression.

During a panel discussion on gender balance and the pay gap in business, Festive Road managing partner Caroline Strachan read out the results of research that shows women experience career decisions and ideas about goals differently to men due to biological and cultural differences – namely childbirth and motherhood.

Michelle ‘Mick’ Lee, founder and CEO of WINiT (women in travel) and Arrow212, said she agrees, adding that she believes her work ethic helped advance her career.

“I always went for jobs that I wasn’t necessarily qualified for because I knew that my work ethic and confidence in my skills would get me through,” Lee said.

Strachan commented that confidence is key when it comes to career progression, especially for women, as they find it harder to ask for things such as promotions or pay rises. “Quite often, the women who make it to the top of the career ladder have an abundance of self-confidence.”

Jason Geall, vice president of Northern Europe at American Express Global Business Travel, added: “If you have limited beliefs and you don’t think something is possible, then chances are it won’t happen.”

When it comes to career progression, the panel suggested buyers – both men and women – have clear goals in mind.

Strachan said: “Ask yourself what your next step is and don’t be afraid to make your career aspirations known to your employer. Take ownership of your goals.”

Lee pointed out that as a woman, she felt compelled to prove herself by taking on the job she wanted without having the title to go with it. “Sometimes you have to be prepared to go above and beyond in order to prove that you’re ready for the next step. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.”

Addressing the gender pay gap, which UK companies are required to report to the public by April this year, Lee said women can face the challenge of having to make difficult decisions at a certain point in their lives.

“There are certainly points in my career when I had to take action to prevent myself from encountering a pay gap. The reality is that women aren’t great at negotiating salaries or asking how they can get to the next level. You can’t be complacent and expect that you’re going to get paid what you deserve – have a conversation with your employer about how you can improve and make the next step.”

Geall agreed, saying he feels like his career would have been far more affected by the birth of his children if he was a woman. “I would’ve been five years behind on my career trajectory,” he said.

Strachan proved Geall’s point, bringing up a graph that shows women who take time out of work to have children often come back to lower salaries and never catch up to the pay of women who don’t have children, while men see little to no negative effects on their salary due to parenthood.

Geall continued: “Obviously, it’s a personal choice whether you have children or not, but women shouldn’t have to struggle to recover their pay if they decide to start a family.”

Strachan finished by telling the audience: “If you want to climb the career ladder and take the next steps, talk to your employer about any talent programmes they have in place. If they don’t have any, find an employer that does.”

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