International Women’s Day – #ChooseToChallenge
March 8, 2021
This year’s theme of International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge and one of the missions is to forge inclusive work cultures where women’s careers thrive and achievements are celebrated which is music to my intersectional feminist ears.
I remember back to a Travel Convention a decade ago when the stage was an all-male lineup, and the audience was approximately 60% female – I was enraged and emboldened to rally against this. There’s still a long way to go in travel but businesses are waking up to the need for empowered women on their senior teams, in their boardrooms, as their CEOs and spokespeople. Here’s a moment of reflection on the women I work with that thrive and a celebration of their achievements.
Eight of the PRWeek Top 10 in Travel Comms released last week are women, including our own Debbie Flynn of course who is joined by Chantal Bowman-Boyles in the main PRWeek PowerBook.
We also have powerful women leading the way in travel from Julia Lo Bue Said, CEO of Advantage who has been outspoken from the outset about her determination to challenge the status quo on behalf of her members and the wider industry, but always doing so with compassion.
I’ve had the genuine joy of working with Zina Bencheikh, MD for EMEA for Intrepid Travel and the fabulous powerhouse of women around her over the years (Chloe Berman, Gillian Monahan, Lucy Siebert, Robyn Nixon, Jo Reeve – I could go on). Recently we have launched a brilliant new initiative driven by Zina in partnership with the rather marvellous Alessandra Alonso of the social enterprise Women in Travel (CIC) where immigrant women have created new tours of London showing of their heritage and cultural connection through the communities within the capital.
I also have the honour of working with Visit Iceland for nearly nine years and see firsthand what it means to work with a country that consistently ranks number 1 in equality in the workplace *spoiler alert* it means lots of empowered women like Kristjana Rós Guðjohnsen and Sigga Dögg Guðmundsdóttir leading or working alongside men and all doing a really good job and being excellent people in the process, it is as dreamy as it sounds.
It is well known that I have a deep love for the Caribbean – most of us are currently dreaming of a warm white sands and rum punches – but what I love most are the strong independent women I have worked with from Caribbean islands. What I have found most interesting about many of the ones I admire is their power to listen and distil information before acting. In this respect I have learnt so much from our client Cherrie Osborne of Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority who pretty much nails it, every time.
Always calm in a crisis, Tolene van der Merwe joined Malta Tourism Authority from South Africa Tourism and seamlessly slipped into this new role just as a global pandemic hit. Her intuition has steered a steady ship throughout and she even made sure that she recognised and championed the role of beleaguered travel agents by investing lots of time, training, resources, rewards and even creating an award for them last summer. She also taught me the power of growing my own microgreens, this is pretty high up there in my own list of achievements this year.
All this may seem like posturing, but I can hand on heart refute that. I have learnt and continue to learn so much from women like this who lead with consideration and kindness*.
Finally, it would be churlish not to mention the rather wonderful women I work with within the FINN Travel team – seriously, there are some very empowered, clever and genuinely talented ladies who I just adore. Thank you Debbie, Kylie, Melissa, Sarah, April, Girda, Emily, Kate, Milena, Olivia, Carly, Georgia, Cat, Jane, Rebecca, Freddie, Grace and Anneka as well as our brilliant interns, Grace and Jasmine. This past year has been really tough on us all, but without them it would have been untenable. I’m really looking forward to the more inclusive and better world that we are all helping to create.
*You can probably tell that I’ve recently been reading Viv Groskop’s Lift As You Climb and listening to Mary Portas’ The Kindness Economy – I #ChoosetoChallenge you to listen to them…