I have just come back from running my first Women in Travel meetup at Arabian Travel Market in Dubai and I am still feeling elated and exhilarated by the whole experience!
The passion and energy the debate attracted was incredible and I am ever so grateful to ATM for the opportunity, to my speakers for their powerful messages and uplifting presence and for all women (and a handful of men too!) who attended the event. Those who walked past the Showcase Theatre could not but help noticing the amount of interest and engagement the debated generated. I saw many standing up on the side watching with a mix of curiosity and admiration what was going on!
The debate focus on the pathway to leadership for women in the industry and what can be shared by those who have already made it. A number of tips and great advices were shared from the stage by Debrah Dhugga, MD of Dukes Hotels and Carol Hay, Marketing Director UK and Europe of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation. Important points were also raised by women in the audience. I want to summarise four key points that I believe will resonate with many of you who were perhaps unable to attend the session:
#1 Believe in yourself and stop the self-doubt
I experienced that internal chatter first hand at Women in Travel when I discovered that my session was going to take place in an open theatre. Suddenly I thought nobody would turn up or if they did, nobody would engage because the openness of the theatre would expose them too much. How wrong I was! I had to extend the session by over 30 minutes as women kept on raising their hands to ask questions, energy and passion being both palpable in the room. I knew in my heart of hearts that women would welcome the event because by now I have enough experience and knowledge to know that women professionals in the field need this type of event, a community and a place to engage. But I still let the ‘internal little voices’ take over for a little time and put my personal brand and presence at risk for a short moment. So believe in yourself and stop doubting what you have passionately worked for and believe in. You are the expert and you have the knowledge in your area, take ownership!
#2 Make choices and take ownership
Women leaders know that only when we make positive choices and take ownership of our own wishes we can be truly in control. It is critical that we have clarity about what we want, we appreciate the consequences of these choices and then live with them without guilt. This is especially important when it comes to making decisions about work that can impact our family: let’s not seek out perfection as it will only frustrate us! In order to feel that we can make choices it is critical to set up a network around us of supporting and helpful individuals who can come to our rescue when we need it. Family members, friends and most likely other women in similar circumstances, we need people who look out for each other and for us at the appropriate time. Let’s make sure that we return the favour when the opportunity comes!
#3 Mentoring and networking
All women I encounter who are in leadership position, aspiring to one or acting as one stress to me how important it is to have a mentor, to look for a mentor and indeed to act as mentors to others. It is no mystery that mentoring helps women (and men off course) explore their own self-awareness, develop personally and professionally and carve out a space where they can focus on themselves. Our speakers said that they all still have a mentor and they do mentoring themselves. Many women asked how and where do I find one? The answer was through networking and exploring networks around you, whether at work, in your community, within professional industry bodies or alumni university group. Ask friends and contact if they have somebody they know would love to act like one. Finding a mentor is easier than one thinks and is definitely worth the effort of searching for one!
#4 What is good for women is good for all
Speakers and attendees were totally in agreement on this. When society supports women, the result is benefits to the whole of society. Take for example, the issue of women asking for more flexibility from their workplace and for organisations to understand that what matters is outcomes not presentism. Actually, flexibility is not just for women or women with child care duties. Elderly care is an increasingly important issue for men and women; a younger generation of fathers also wants to be home for feeding or bath time or home work. So it is time the work place recognizes that many challenges are shared challenges and what is done initially to support women can eventually benefit a much greater slice of the workforce.