Following on from yesterday’s exploration of women’s personal experiences of gender bias in tourism, day two of #5Questions4Change investigates what women feel are the main challenges and barriers for them whilst working in the industry. We asked women what changes they would like to see from the industry, whether that be in terms of more flexible working options, increased maternity leave or stronger sexual harassment policies. The answers below detail our findings, and we hope that they serve as motivators to #ChoosetoChallenge gender equality in tourism, long into the future. 

“Women in the industry were eye candy, or filled a space, but had no true voice.”

CARMEN N. PORTELA On what change is needed for women in the Tourism Industry

What do you think are the main challenges in the tourism industry for women?

FROSSO BORA – Frosso Bora Ceramics, Crete @FrossoBoraCeramics

It is challenging to juggle family with work, especially if you  have small children. My husband is a teacher (so he does not work in the summer) and he helped me a lot. I would not be able to work if it was not for him being so supportive. When my children were small, I would frequently take them to the hotel with me. Long working hours and no days off are other important challenges: it is very hard to succeed if you do not have any support. A further issue is that the majority of the childcare facilities in Greece are private, so you need to have the money to pay for them.

PATS KRYSIAK AND LAURA GRIER – Co-Founders of Andeana Hats & Andeana Travel, Peru @andeanahats

We work with Indigenous communities in the Sacred Valley of Peru and one of the main issues in this area is exploitation and informal work environments. Artisans usually get severely underpaid and exploited from their work for the tourism industry. Often times, these artisans don’t have the skills to negotiate their wages and as they are women, they do not have the confidence. We have partnered with Awamaki to help provide these sustainable income opportunities for women and offer training and workshops in confidence building, language classes (since most of the artisans speak Quechua not Spanish) and basic business skills (like simple accounting, quality control and product development). 

THINLAS CHOROL – Trekking guide & Founder of Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company, India @Ladakhiwomenstravelcompany 

Having kids, because they can not work for 1 or 2 years per child. And family pressures, women worry that the tourism industry is not a stable employment option.

SHELLEY BRAGG – Co-founder /Director of Development for GOOD Travel, USA @GoodTravel

Research is telling us that there isn’t equal opportunity for women in the industry. Although they make up close to 70% of the tourism workforce, women are often prescribed to certain roles within the tourism sector and excluded from others. Women are often paid less in their roles, too. As in all industries, women often face the challenge of family caretaking alongside earning a living, which can be prohibitive. Women as travelers are more vulnerable to gender bias and threats on physical safety. 

CARMEN N. PORTELA – Co-founder Local Guest, Puerto Rico @localguestglobal

I have had excellent male bosses, but I have also suffered sexual harassment in the workplace. Since our industry was so male dominated in some circles it felt like a men’s club. In contrast, women in the industry were eye candy, or filled a space, but had no true voice. I feel that the Me Too movement helped a plethora of industries to re-evaluate their sexual harassment policies and gave light to a big problem that was always sweapt under the rug.

What would you like to see change in your workplace for women? 

JORDAN ASHLEY – Founder of Souljourn Yoga Foundation, USA @SouljournYoga

I think there is a lot of aesthetic pressure for women, especially with so much of the travel industry being represented on social media. Having the right “look” or having the perfect filter on an image has honestly desecrated the joy in having a global adventure, as everything is so manicured and manipulated. There is a preciousness that I think a lot of women feel pressured by in terms of encompassing this “global citizen” vibe, which honestly feels really artificial. I think there needs to be more honesty and authenticity behind posting images… Both men and women who travel need to step it up when documenting their travels.

ANNIE YOUNG – President of the Panamanian Foundation of Sustainable Tourism; Founder and former owner of EcoCircuitos Panama Tour Operator and Sublime Journeys DMC, Panama @APTSO.ORG

Now I work in the Panamanian Foundation of Sustainable Tourism, one of our goals is to empower local women through tourism. I would change the machismo culture that is still an issue in many companies and organizations in Panama. Women with opinions are sometimes judged even by other women so we are actively working towards a more collaborative platform that is inclusive. Meaningful change is a long process but I would like to see more women actively involved in planning community projects and with an active voice, recognizing that a resilient community is one which works in collaboration towards a shared vision.  

THINLAS CHOROL – Trekking guide & Founder of Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company, India @Ladakhiwomenstravelcompany 

That more women are willing to work in the industry as a career.

EUNICE KOOME – Founder & CEO of Designer Safari, KENYA @designersafariofficial

The changes I would like to see for women in tourism are:

a. Longer maternity leave,

b. Permission to bring small babies to the workplace so that children can breastfeed for longer,

c. More flexible working hours,

d. The ability to work from home.

We hope you enjoyed the second day of #5Questions4Change, join us throughout the week as we ask women to challenge more aspects of the Tourism Industry. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for updates on #5Questions4Change and more!