Skift Take

Diversifying a travel company's C-suite is proving to be a protracted battle. It's one thing to follow anti-discrimination laws and react to sexual harassment claims, and another to practice real inclusion.

At the beginning of 2017, we noted that the travel industry has few female CEOs at major companies, and that diversifying the C-suite would be a first step toward creating products that better serve women. Diverse leadership could also bring cognitive and financial benefits.

But as the year draws to a close, it feels as though things remain a bit stagnant when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

This year Carolyn McCall, a rare female CEO in aviation, announced she would leave EasyJet at the beginning of 2018 after giving the airline a substantial boost.

In the startup arena, hotel booking site Stayful, which enjoyed a majority-female staff and a female CEO who advocated for working women, wound down operations.

Female travelers still struggle to find safety in homesharing and many female business travelers still get insufficient supported from their companies, or at times get passed over for travel opportunities.

Two corners of the industry remain case studies in fostering female leadership: Indian Country has a tourism board with an all-female staff, and the Black Travel Movement is rich in female founders. These organizations are small, but suggest that female leadership does much to gaining women’s loyalty. For example, the membership of Nomadness Travel Tribe is approaching 90 percent female without billing itself as a women’s group.

Among globally competitive companies, Shanghai-based Ctrip seems like a bright spot. CEO Jane Jie Sun said she prioritizes supporting women in the workplace, including assistance with daycare. This growing online travel agency could serve as a gender diversity model moving forward as it becomes an even bigger force on a global scale.

Among other standouts, Gillian Tans became CEO of in 2016, and the company’s workforce is more than 50 percent female. Tans has pushed for the mentoring and advancement of women at the Priceline Group’s largest subsidiary.

Here are some stories Skift published in 2017 that cover female empowerment issues in the travel industry:

Ctrip CEO on Growth Strategies and Employee Empowerment: Ctrip CEO Jane Jie Sun became the first female CEO of a publicly traded online travel agency in 2016, and now that she’s been at the helm for a year, her male peers at Priceline, Expedia, and TripAdvisor may have some competition on their hands. In addition to outbound travel growth, Sun focused on the empowerment of women and mothers in the workplace, especially now that China’s one-child policy is over.

EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall Will Be a Hard Act to Follow: When Carolyn McCall stepped up as CEO of low-cost carrier EasyJet, many doubted her qualifications, but after strengthening the airline while competitors folded, she now leaves her successor a solid company to run.

How Women in the Travel Industry Are Tackling Gender Discrimination: Claims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination are plentiful in the Trump era, whether in Washington, Hollywood, or travel companies like Uber and Virgin, and many women in the travel industry are ready for action. If asking male executives one-on-one for equality isn’t working, maybe banding together and taking a cue from the Women’s March is in order — and maybe female travelers should vote with their dollars.

Female Business Travelers Demand Equality From Their Employers: Female business travelers face safety concerns on the road that don’t affect their male counterparts, but there’s another problem that’s talked about even less. Since male managers know about these safety risks, they don’t send women on the road at all, taking away these chances for career development.

Female Travelers Finding Creative Solutions in Homesharing Economy: Most solo female travelers pay a premium for safety, whether it’s a more secure hotel, a taxi instead of walking, or a translator instead of winging it. The idea of paying less for safety is novel, and homesharing site Overnight may have figured out how to deliver it via the “friend economy.”

Airbnb and the Plight of the Female Host and Traveler: After being confronted with claims of discrimination, Airbnb took steps to level the playing field, including pushing its Instant Booking feature. But more could be done to fully inform solo female travelers about the homes they’ll be visiting, and to support female hosts who share their living spaces.

Women in Luxury Travel Share Perspectives on the Glass Ceiling: Many people associate luxury travel with women, but is it really true that luxury travel enjoys more female executives? Statistics are hard to come by, but women in the sector see the value of sticking together to fight unconscious bias.


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Tags: discrimination, diversity, diversity and inclusion, women

Photo credit: Jane Jie Sun (shown here) is the CEO of Ctrip. Among high-profile female CEOs, Gillian Tans leads Ctrip

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