12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
Business travel is dominated by the fairer sex, but are women reaching the high echelons of management, question leading industry figures.
To mark International Women’s Day today (March 8), ABTN spoke to a number of senior women in the business travel and aviation sector.
What they revealed was that while it has never been easier to juggle a career, hectic social schedule and demanding home life, fewer women are joining boards and taking on CEO positions than is perhaps representative of the industry.
More than 65% of people who work in the business travel industry are female, according to the GTMC survey, with senior management teams showing a similar ratio of men to women. What the survey did not reveal is whether the top positions are as equally balanced.
Anne Godfrey, CEO of the GTMC, said working in business travel is a popular choice with many women, as many TMCs support flexible and part-time working.
This is a logical choice for TMCs, said Godfrey, as the great depth of knowledge of many women in the travel industry means it makes good business sense to keep hold of them.
“Knowledge matters,” she said. “It’s not just knowledge of the job, it’s also knowledge of the people, because it’s such a people industry.”
However, according to Ilona De March, president EMEA of BCD Travel, the business travel industry is just as challenging as any other in terms of reaching senior positions.
“Despite the fact that in call centres we have 80% women, if you look at top management women are usually rare,” she said.
While BCD has a large number of women at senior positions – “At my level in my company we are outnumbering the guys!” – De March doesn’t see this reflected across the industry as a whole.
To rebalance the equation, De March said she is “adamantly” in favour of a legal quota being installed by government, to ensure all businesses promote equality.
“I’ve been in the industry for 16 years,” she said. “There are more women in top management positions and on boards than before, but from my point of view it’s not happening fast enough.”
Helen Cahill, board member and director of communications for the UK and Ireland agreed that there are fewer women at CEO and board level than there could be.
“The travel industry has a high percentage of women in it, that is probably not represented at board level,” she said. The CWT UK and Ireland board is split 50/50.
“If you look at the top jobs, the representation at that high level doesn’t reflect what is going on lower down the ranks.”
Despite the imbalance in numbers, Cahill said she has never felt she “ever had to fight extra hard as a woman”.
“I’ve always felt that every opportunity is available,” she said. “I don’t really think of myself as a woman in business. I’m sure a lot of women don’t think of themselves in that way.
“I think of myself as a person in business. It’s probably a luxury that I’m allowed to feel that way. I probably owe something to some of the fabulous females who were in the business travel industry before, who had to beat down a few doors to get to some of the top jobs and get taken seriously.”
Christine Ourmiéres, Cityjet’s CEO, said the position of women has changed significantly in the past 40 years.
“I think that many of the glass ceilings that previously limited women to purely administrative positions have been shattered,” she said.
However, being only one of a few women to have ever been CEOs, there is “definitely room” for more women to become leaders in the aviation industry, said Ourmieres.
She said: “Traditionally, the airlines industry has been rather male dominated in leadership, but this is not to say that it will remain this way, or that positions in leadership are impossible for women to achieve.
“I myself am proud to be a CEO and I know that there are more and more women taking on positions of leadership at the different airlines. I think everyone, regardless of gender, should work hard and strive to attain their ideal positions.”
Ourmieres welcomed the changes in the industry, and said International Women’s Day is an important way of recognising the work and progress that has already been achieved.