Together with my industry colleagues, we were proud to take part in the very first Women In Tourism (WIT) event at Edinburgh’s EICC in partnership with Tourism Society Scotland on Thursday 17 March 2016. This event formed part of the annual STA Conference Signature Programme during Scottish Tourism Week, offering a great opportunity for the WIT team to lead an open discussion on the challenges and opportunities of being a woman in tourism.
We were delighted that 65 highly engaged delegates attended our event, with 47% rating it ‘very good’ and 33% rating it excellent: testament to the insightful content from the panelists and the lively Q&A with all attendees.
Kicking off the event, our Chair of Women In Tourism, Susan Russell, presented the results of the recent WIT survey which launched to industry earlier this year. A roundup of key highlights is available here.
Catherine Holden, Director of External Relations at National Museums Scotland, expertly chaired a thought-provoking panel discussion comprising:
- Amanda Wrathall, Director of Sales & Marketing, Edinburgh International Conference Centre
- Melissa Singh, Marketing Assistant, VisitScotland
- Rebecca Brooks, Managing Director, Abbey Tours
- Juliana Delaney, Chief Executive, Continuum Attractions
Following a presentation by each panelist on what they perceive to be the biggest challenges and opportunities for women in the sector, Catherine then welcomed questions from the floor. The main areas of conversation and discussion highlighted by my colleague Susan Russell were:
- A lack of female role models was highlighted as a challenge, alongside a lack of flexible childcare that caters for professionals working outside of the traditional Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm work pattern.
- Industry may be missing out on a significant pool of talent with a lack of flexible childcare provision, acknowledging that this can present a challenge to both men and women although statistically, there are more single mothers.
- More female role models should be celebrated by the industry, for the development of networks like Women In Tourism that facilitates these discussions and supports women working in the sector.
- Technology to be an enabler for more flexible working – from home and at hours that suit individual professionals, and for childcare to be developed to cater not only for professionals working in hospitality, but for those working in other sectors that require human resource 24/7 including healthcare.
- Acquiring knowledge, networking and gaining valuable contacts in order to build strong working relationships were cited as key.
- The importance of celebrating female role models was widely discussed.
- A reminder to the audience that if you do not ask, you do not get so do not be afraid to start key conversations.
- More focus should be on looking at how more women can reach roles of leadership and how to ensure that the best person for the job is appointed each time.
- Timing is key to anyone in a senior leadership role as they need to have capacity for the time the role requires. It is important to commit to work at a time that suits the individual.
- Use of the word ‘hurdles’ instead of ‘barriers’ as hurdles can largely be overcome and women are well equipped for leadership roles in tourism.
- Is ‘Parity’ a preferred term to ‘equality’ as the second implies that women are somehow on the back foot and are having to prove themselves as equals?
- Women to have more confidence in their own abilities.
It was very satisfying to see the tag #womenintourism trending on Twitter across Edinburgh throughout the morning (we put a lot of effort into that!) and we enjoyed some excellent media coverage in support of the event and the announcement of the survey results.