This week, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we have been travelling the world to hear reflections and stories from women working to #BreakTheBias in tourism. The first part of our journey took us to Kenya, Spain and India thanks to the Kenya Association of Women in TourismAlbasud and Equations (Equitable Tourism Operations). Next, we travelled to Madagascar, France and South Africa with the the International Social Tourism Organisation,  Madavoyages, Hauweng Tourism For All and Ethic Etapes. Today we are in Indonesia, London, Portugal and Italy where community leaders and academics express personal and systemic challenges to #BreakTheBias.

Ita Natalia, Community Facilitator (mapping, livelihood, and ecotourism) Samdhana Institute, Indonesia

You can not appreciate the beauty of nature without recognizing the role that women have played in creating and protecting that environment.

Karen Simmonds

Founder of Travel Matters & the Make Travel Matter campaign

Women in leadership roles – CEOS as well as senior management are few and far between. I have been in the travel industry since my early 20’s (over 30 years now) and it has been accepted that a woman’s role in this position gets easily bypassed with men taking such roles.

In a recent study I read, only 4.8% of the largest listed companies in 55 countries have a woman CEO. (this is according to the Corporate Women Director’s International Group which is a source of research and advocacy for women globally.) 

So how are we to respond when this is the case from the top down? 

I’ve had my own travel business for over 23 years. I have participated in many international conferences or events. It never surprised me to see a panel of men being interviewed as the representatives of the travel business on global platforms. As the travel & tourism sector represents 1 in 10 jobs worldwide, it baffled and frustrated me to see this as the case – surely there should have been an equitable amount of men and women representing the businesses? Women make up 54% of the tourism workforce according to UNWTO. 

This clearly has been an invisible bias I have accepted for decades and for that reason, I want to ensure my voice is being heard that it is not acceptable and we need to #BreakTheBias.

karen simmonds, travel matters

This clearly has been an invisible bias I have accepted for decades and for that reason, I want to ensure my voice is being heard that it is not acceptable and we need to #BreakTheBias.

We fully support the Sustainable Development Goal 5 – part of which is to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life is upheld. 

Fiona Bakas, Researcher and Lecturer at Lusofona University in Lisbon and Dalarna, Sweden. Fiona says we need to focus on platforms that provide tourism experiences and how gender equality is achieved in those spaces. These women often experience gender-based violence as they are entering a male-dominated space. We need to #BreakTheBias on where women in tourism can work safely.

Iaia Pedemonte of Gender Responsible Tourism has found that women are asking for their voices to be heard and a network to connect with other women in tourism. She calls for anti-gender bias awareness training for all workers to tackle unconscious bias with a clear evaluation criteria to keep decision-makers accountable.