How should men mark International Women’s Day 2017?

How should men mark International Women’s Day 2017?

I should start by apologising to all women readers of this blog. You will learn nothing new from it. I doubt I have anything to say that you don’t already know and experience.

Maybe it is a mistake to deny such a huge percentage of the industry – after all women make up around 70% of tourism’s workforce. However, today I am writing for the other 30% – the men, who may be less in number, but who have somehow held onto around 80% of the managerial jobs.

There are loads of numbers like this. The 2013 Women and the tourism industry in Brazil report showed that the average earnings for men in the country’s tourism sector was 43% higher than women. Women own less than 10% of the hotels around the world. Make up less than 10% of corporate boards in hospitality companies. According to a Global Report on Women in Tourism by UNWTO, only one in five Tourism Ministers in the world is a woman.

And yes, there are examples that present counter arguments. Many big hotel chains have excellent diversity strategies in place. Marriott was recognised as one of the 100 Best Workplaces for Women. There are inspiring stories all across the world of tourism businesses empowering women, like Celebrating Women in Tourism or Gender Responsible Tourism.

But even these initiatives only go so far. As the  Women in Tourism & Hospitality: Unlocking the Potential in the Talent Pool white paper puts it:

“Aspirational and laudable corporate policies in major hospitality companies that support opportunity for women on an equal footing to men and, in some cases, provide additional affirmative action to enable women to progress in organisations. However, such policies and programmes rarely extend to include the increasingly diverse and extended supply chain that is in place in companies that outsource services across a range of front- and back-of-house functions.”

Men should see this as our problem.

The International Labour Organization wrote in 2010:

“A divergence between qualifications and workplace reality is observable for women, who make up between 60 and 70 per cent of the labour force. Unskilled or semi-skilled women tend to work in the most vulnerable jobs, where they are more likely to experience poor working conditions, inequality of opportunity and treatment, violence, exploitation, stress and sexual harassment.”

They might be the exploited women cleaning hotel rooms in London, as described in Unethical London. Or worse, as the Hindu reported recently about a study claiming that women are exploited in tourism. This looked into the working conditions for women in the hospitality industry in Goa, where:

“Women pay a much bigger price, in terms of things like gambling, liquor and prostitution, instead of benefiting from the tourism.”

So what should men working in tourism do to mark International Women’s Day this March 8th, where the theme is Be Bold For Change?

We could start by asking the women we work with. They are much more likely to know than we are.

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Jeremy Smith is a writer, speaker and sustainable tourism consultant. He is co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, an initiative that supports tourism organisations in declaring a climate emergency and working together to reduce their carbon emissions in line with the Science Based Targets. He is the author of Transforming Travel - realising the potential of sustainable tourism (2018), and co-founder of, the travel industry sustainable tourism website news site. He consults widely on sustainable tourism strategy and communication, with recent clients including Bruges Ommeland, GSTC, English National Parks, Tripadvisor, the Travel Foundation, and the European Travel Commission. He is a member of Travalyst’s Independent Advisory Board and was a member of Rotterdam’s International Advisory Board in 2019, helping develop a new vision for the city’s tourism.

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