In Inaugural Event, Winit Spotlights Travel Industry Gender Inequality, Calls For Change

By JoAnn DeLuna
Published by BTN – Business Travel News Magazine

Los Angeles – A 2007 report by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization promoting inclusive workplaces for women, indicated that companies with a high representation of women on their boards outperformed their rivals with a 42 percent higher return in sales, 66 percent higher return on investment capital and 53 percent higher return on equity. Yet, in 2012 only 17 percent of board members in Fortune 500 companies were women, according to a separate 2013 Catalyst study.

Such statistics regarding women’s roles in the workplace confronted the 383 women and men who registered to attend the inaugural Women in Travel, or Winit, event here in late July. Winit committee members called for awareness, change and action to make the industry more representative of its female constituency.

“We have to change the dialogue. … Do it not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good for the economy,” said Klio Travel Ventures owner and Winit board of directors chair Hervé Sedky during the event. “Women make most of the economic decisions in the world today, so if you want to impact a country’s [gross domestic product] or a company’s bottom line, you have to really focus on this important constituency.”

Winit, founded in January by Citi managing director and global head of general services and travel Mick Lee, is a “network of women and men supporting women in travel,” according to the organization’s mission statement. The organization has raised 50 percent of its 2014 fundraising goal, Lee told BTN, and as of Aug. 25 has 1,218 LinkedIn group members, according to Winit’s LinkedIn page.

Winit committee chairs during the event announced updates and 2015 goals. The association’s global mentoring program is on track to launch in the first half of 2015, officials said. The measurement and evaluation committee gathered statistics on women in the travel industry and Winit survey responses that “reflect the inequality in the industry,” and which Winit will monitor to gauge the success of its efforts, explained Christa Degnan Manning, HSF Research senior vice president and Winit measurement and evaluation co-chair.

Of 157 Winit LinkedIn members who responded to an April 2014 poll, 42 percent reported that a lack of equal career opportunities has impacted their personal performance and 28 percent reported it’s impacting their company performance.

“One out of two women in this industry is actively or passively looking for her next job,” said Manning. “If we don’t put the structures in place to give them the opportunity within the leading companies, they’ll go to the ones that do.”

Winit also plans to establish regional meetings in the Americas, Asia/Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, develop a job and resumé-posting network for the industry and create talent-development initiatives.

The one-day conference also provided tips on advancing careers through a LinkedIn branding workshop and personal accounts from Winit committee members of their career journeys to executive positions and the mentors who helped get them there. Other highlights included the “man panel,” with male committee members discussing men’s perception of women in the workplace.

“Simply by bringing awareness forward, talking about the issues that exist, we’re making a difference in the industry already,” Lee said.

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