University of Surrey support WTM Women in Travel

University of Surrey support WTM Women in Travel

This week’s guest blog is by Prof Graham Miller, director and Head of Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. We are delighted that the School has agreed to support the second WTM Women in Travel meet up and here Graham tells us why.

Why does the University of Surrey, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management support gender equality in employment?

This could be a really short blog. It is simply the right thing to do. We might ask whether anyone is against gender equality in employment in hospitality and tourism? Unfortunately, there are people who feel this, but through hard work, the view that now tends to dominate is that men and women should have equal opportunity. Yet, believing that there should be gender equality is not the same thing as there being gender equality, and so we have to look at other reasons that may spur people to greater action than the moral argument of it being the right thing to do.

In the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey we take the very brightest students from all around the world. We are the only top ten-ranked university in the country to offer specialist degrees in hospitality, tourism and events management and we expect our students to go on to the highest levels of achievement. Around two thirds of our students are female and yet, board level representation of females in the tourism and hospitality industry is nowhere near to this level. There are some notable exceptions of women that lead UK and global tourism and hospitality companies, but not enough.

The demographic of students who are graduating from schools, colleges and universities over the next 5-10 years is a very small group of students. If the tourism and hospitality economy is to grow, then it will need more than its economy share of people. To do this it is going to have to improve its employment practices not only against its current position, but also relative to other industries. A commitment to pay the living wage to all staff, whether employed or contracted, might be a good place for the industry to start.

If organisations want to attract the best students into the industry, then it needs to be able to recruit both men and women. To do this it will need to show role models of women who have succeeded and created an enviable career. At the University of Surrey we have developed a mentoring programme for our final year students so that they can be introduced to people employed in the industry and can benefit from their experiences and use them as role models.

Yet, one of the reasons the industry has a recruitment problem is because it has a retention problem, so once women are recruited, the industry needs to create careers that offer fair opportunities, and are flexible throughout the years in order that women remain within the industry and don’t need to leave when they want to have a family.This need not create additional cost for the company.

So, while everyone supports gender equality in hospitality and tourism, that support counts for little unless we take action. This is why we are delighted to sponsor these discussions, to conduct research on this topic that informs the discussions, and to ensure students graduating from the University of Surrey understand both the moral and business arguments for gender equality.

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Alessandra is founder of social enterprise Women in Travel CIC which she launched in January 2017 to provide communities in key regions (for example UK, Middle East, Africa and Latin America) with a sustainable livelihood by enabling women to become economically independent through entrepreneurship and a thriving career in the travel and tourism industry. Alessandra is also Chief Mentor & Consultant at Everyday Mentor, where she provides mentoring, coaching and consulting services to a range of clients in the commercial and public sector. Alessandra also collaborates with a number of Universities, including Hertfordshire, Normandy and Surrey. Alessandra is passionate about gender in tourism and has written and spoken extensively on the subject over the last 12 years, including at the United Nations World Tourism Day. She is well known as co-founder of Shine People and Places – a boutique outfit dedicate to supporting women in the workplace - and The Shine Awards for Women Achievements in Travel Tourism Hospitality and Events, which she ran between 2004 and 2010 before Sector Skills Council People 1st took them over. Prior to Shine Alessandra worked at KPMG, where she built the Travel & Tourism division, and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Alessandra has an executive MBA from the University of Ediburgh/Grande Ecole Pons combined; she is a qualified coach/mentor for performance in the workplace and she is a member of several industry bodies including AWTE and the UK Tourism Society.

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