Putting gender equality on the agenda – two recent events show how it’s done

Putting gender equality on the agenda – two recent events show how it’s done

Angela Kalisch speaking at TTG conference
Photo curtesy of TTG Media

Equality in Tourism recently presented on gender equality at two seminal events. Angela Kalisch, trustee and chair of EiT, recounts her experience.

The first of the events was Roundtable on Human Rights in Tourism’s symposium “Human Rights in Practice: Equality in Tourism”, held in Utrecht, Netherlands. Angela also joined a panel discussion at TTG Media’s conference “Diversity and Inclusion in the Travel Industry” to discuss whether diversity and inclusion really is an issue for the industry.

Roundtable on Human Rights in Tourism’s symposium “Human Rights in Practice: Equality in Tourism”, Utrech, 27 June, 2019

On a warm and sunny day, on 27th June, I found myself at the Social Impact Factory in Utrecht, a hub for creativity and social innovation. The Roundtable is a non-profit association under German law and an international multi-stakeholder initiative promoting human rights. It acts as an open network to support tourism businesses on their way to respect of human rights in tourism according to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Together with over 60 delegates representing tour operators, travel agencies, tourism associations, development organisations and NGOs from Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and UK, such as ABTA, which is on the Board of the Roundtable, we spent the day discussing and learning, sharing knowledge and experiences on human rights in tourism.

The symposium’s purpose was to offer an introduction to gender equality, fair and equal working conditions, challenges of implementing human rights in outsourcing operations, and sharing best practice examples. EiT presented one of the two keynote speeches. The first speech was on ‘Why equal workers’ rights matter for businesses’, by Bert van Son, CEO and founder of MUD Jeans, a company which leases out jeans and then recycles them once returned. The focus in my presentation was on putting the gender lens on human rights in the workplace, but I also focused on women’s rights in destination communities. I delivered an urgent message to speed up the process of implementing gender equality in tourism organisations throughout the supply chain, presenting some of the findings from our Sun, Sand and Ceilings reports (2013 and 2018), followed by an action plan for change.

The morning ended with a panel discussion on practical approaches on equality along the tourism supply chain, representing perspectives to questions and answers from tour operators G Adventures and Riksja Travel, who have a strong focus on sustainability and community based initiatives (for ex. Riksja Travel have set up a microcredit scheme for women entrepreneurs in developing countries, called Wakibi), from trade unions, such as the International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers, IUF, and the fashion industry, specifically INRetail, to learn lessons from other industry sectors. The afternoon was taken up by workshops on workers’ rights, equality in the SME sector, women’s empowerment and LGBT+ rights in tourism strategies.

The event offered a great opportunity for networking and sharing experiences, and a great deal of food for thought. We were delighted to be invited to share our work and be part of this important European forum for action on human rights in tourism. We were keen to develop partnerships from this event to collaborate on implementing gender mainstreaming in the tourism industry as a key aspect of human rights, and we shall follow up productive strands of conversation to create opportunities to that end.

‘Diversity and Inclusion in the Travel Industry’, organised by TTG Media, London, 3 July, 2019

This event was the first conference of its kind in the travel industry, and not before time. It was organised by TTG Media, with support from PwC, Everywoman and sponsored by Intrepid. A central point was the launch of the latest PwC report on ‘Diversity and Inclusion in Travel: ‘Turning the dial from nice-to-have to business critical’ (available on the TTG Media website). The report defines the maturity of diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the industry, covering a variety of 50 companies in the travel sector, across 4 dimensions – strategy, leadership from the top, HR processes and other D&I initiatives. The research found that the majority had either simplistic or basic systems in place, and that the travel sector was trailing far behind other industries.

My contribution on gender equality was one of four at the beginning of the day, on a panel of representatives from Travlaw, Royal Caribbean Cruises and the UK Chapter of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, chaired by Pippa Jacks, Group editor of TTG Media. Through their personal stories, my fellow panel members illustrated what it means to be confronted with homophobia, racism, stereotyping and cultural prejudice.

Panel discussion at TTG conference
Photo curtesy of TTG Media

I spoke about the barriers that women face in progressing from low skilled, low paid jobs into leadership positions in the travel industry, such as unconscious bias and stereotyping, informal recruitment and selection procedures, work/life imbalance and lack of role models. My focus was on the changes that are needed for companies to commit themselves to gender mainstreaming, and how Equality in Tourism is developing the tools to support such change. With only 30 minutes for four panel members to present, time was limited for my input; it was all over quite fast! Of course, there were many other interesting speakers waiting to present, with lots of positive case studies of diversity in practice from EasyJet, Intrepid, and Carnival and Celebrity Cruises. The day finished with a powerful presentation by Melanie Eusebe, CEO of the Black British Business Awards.

Some of the main themes that emerged from the discussions were the importance of:

  • Setting targets, monitoring, measuring and gathering data of employee structures to assess where interventions are necessary for creating an equality-oriented diversity balance
  • Diversity and inclusion being built into strategic objectives
  • KPIs being set at each level and throughout the organisation
  • Bringing relevant underrepresented groups to the table, rather than speaking on behalf of them

TTG Media have assured me that they will organise more events for the different dimensions of diversity in the travel industry, including gender equality, to explore in more depth how the travel industry can provide leadership on these issues, rather than trailing behind other industries. We look forward to being part of this process.

Note: From EiT’s perspective, it is imperative not to perceive gender equality as a separate dimension of diversity, but as intersecting with all other dimensions; therefore, it deserves a comprehensive cross-sectoral approach.

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