“In response to International Women’s Day 2021, we are striking the #ChooseToChallenge pose with our hands high to show our commitment to choosing to challenge the status quo as women in the travel and tourism industry, the inequality and gender bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world.”

Here we are, one week on from International Women’s Day 2021…

This year, the theme of the official IWD campaign was #ChoosetoChallenge, which sought to draw attention to the power of individual action to overcome global gender inequality. We believe that women should be celebrated and heard every day, so today we are reflecting on our #5Questions4Change campaign and continuing the important conversations that it cultivated. 

“A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all  #ChoosetoChallenge. How will you help forge a gender equal world? Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.” https://www.internationalwomensday.com

Equality in Tourism responded to the theme by investigating how women who are directly involved in the tourism industry contend with gender bias. To do this, we conducted interviews with women who work across the travel and tourism industry around the world. We guided conversations through five questions, which covered topics ranging from their personal experiences of gender inequality, systemic challenges, changes that government and tourists should implement, as well as how the pandemic holds the potential to improve gender equality in the industry. 

Our IWD campaign #5Questions4Change, saw us post on our website and across social media a selection of answers to the questions over 5 consecutive days. The answers were insightful and offered unique understandings of the intricacies of being a woman working in the travel and tourism industry.

A few key ‘change’ trends emerged. Below, we take a deeper dive into what the women who were interviewed emphasized should be implemented to advance towards gender equality in the tourism industry.

What Governments Should Change

Women referenced the need for increased support to alleviate the strains of the ‘double shift’ which female tourism workers are subjected to. This relates to the extra strain that is put on women who are effectively forced to work two shifts – one at their place of work, and one at home in the form of domestic labour, including child care and household chores. Another aspect of support they mentioned is increasing funding for women-owned and run travel initiatives and companies, especially female travel founders within the BAME community. Creating partnerships between women run lodges, excursions & tours on the ground with entrepreneurial female run companies is essential in equalizing the playing field for women who are both visitors and residents of these destinations.

What Society Should Change

Many interviewees discussed the need for societies to reject stereotypes and social conventions that restricted their potential and perpetuated their unequal treatment in the tourism industry. Examples given included women having their authority questioned when they assumed leadership positions, being overly-scrutinised and criticised in their performance and behaviour, and being stigmatised as a result of frequently living away from home alongside male guests or colleagues. Our interviewees said that the deconstruction of these stereotypes would increase their career progression and free them from the pressures of ongoing scrutiny.

What Tourists Should Change

Responses also made suggestions about the actions that tourists should take to promote women’s equal treatment in the industry. Ideas centred around three interlinking practices that tourists should engage in – undertaking research about potential gender equality issues associated with a destination, being discerning about who/ where to spend money e.g. proactively choosing to support more women-led/ run companies, be that in-destination or when booking their trips with a travel company, and always questioning practices if they seem biased or unjust while travelling.

Response to the Campaign

Equality in Tourism hopes these key insights help to further develop knowledge about gender bias and prejudice within the tourism industry. One interviewee: Iva Silla, the Owner and author at Secret Zagreb tours and activities, reported that the series has “inspired me to research more about the situation in my own country… Equality in Tourism is a true discovery, I’m at the same time enjoying and getting very upset with the information from the website”, demonstrating the importance of raising awareness. After all, it is only through awareness of the key areas that all those involved in the travel and tourism industry can #ChoosetoChallenge.

A week after International Women’s Day, Equality in Tourism calls on all individuals to carry the sentiments of the campaign into their daily activities, continuing to challenge the status quo and striving for gender equality in tourism throughout the rest of the year.