Equality in Tourism, a new women’s network dedicated to ensuring that women have an equal voice in tourism and an equal share in its benefits, launched today, Monday 8 July 2013, with the release of a report that challenges the industry to start taking gender equality seriously.

The report, titled Sun, Sand and Ceilings: Women in the Boardroom in the Tourism Industry, reveals that although women make up the majority of the tourism workforce in most countries, they are woefully under-represented at executive levels of the world’s top tourism companies.

Equality in Tourism researched 78 companies across four of the major sectors of the tourism industry in the UK – international tour operators, airlines and cruise ships, hotel groups, and international professional associations – and found that only 15.8% of board members are women and more than a quarter of the companies have no women on their boards.

Consequently, Equality in Tourism believes that the UK-based tourism industry is in poor shape to meet a proposed EU Directive on 40% targets for women on boards for all European tourism companies with a turnover of €50 million or more, which could come into force in the next few years. Equality in Tourism is calling on the industry to start addressing the problem now by setting targets of at least 25% female representation on boards for 2015.

Sun, Sand and Ceilings is the first initiative of Equality in Tourism, an independent, non-profit network, which believes that questions of gender discrimination have been largely omitted from the theory and practice of tourism and that greater gender equality is an essential component of a thriving and sustainable tourism industry.

Although this report focuses on the representation of women at the top of the tourism industry, the organisation is concerned with all women working in or affected by the tourism industry. Equality in Tourism will seek to work with the public and private sectors, providing specialist advice, research, training and capacity building using a global network of experts.

Tricia Barnett, former director of Tourism Concern and one of the co-founders of the organisation, said: “It is an uncomfortable truth that women are very poorly represented in decision-making processes at every level of the tourism industry. They are also the hardest hit by its negative impacts. Equality in Tourism will work with all players, in the community as well as within the industry, to ensure that women are informed and empowered and can contribute as equals. Tourism will only be sustainable when women have an equal share in its development.”

Tricia’s fellow co-founders at Equality in Tourism include Dr Stroma Cole, senior lecturer in international tourism development at the University of the West of England, Dr Lucy Ferguson, researcher in gender and tourism and former gender adviser to UNWTO, Polly Pattullo, a writer and publisher specialising in ethical tourism, Jenny Rogers, a consultant in conflict management, and Kate Simon, former travel editor of the Independent on Sunday.

The group is actively encouraging applications from associates. The associates currently involved include Professor Shirley Kaye Randell, an Australia-based expert in education, public sector and institutional reform in developing countries and in gender mainstreaming and human rights for women, Pierrette Nicolosi, founder of Toures (Tourism Responsable) in Belgium, and Daniela Moreno Alarcón, a Madrid-based consultant specialising in tourism from a gender perspective.

Please see the full text here: Sun, Sand and Ceilings: Women in the Boardroom in the Tourism Industry.

Press enquiries for further information or to arrange an interview with one of the directors should be directed to Kate Simon on 07939 526109 and kate@equalityintourism.org.

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