“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” – Margaret Thatcher
Analyzing gender aspects of the tourism industry:
Tourism plays an important role in promoting sustainable development, as it integrates social, economic and environmental aspects that highly impact humanity. Therefore it would be indisputable to say that the gender perspective cannot be left out when discussing sustainable development; particularly because tourism is a major employing sector for both men and women. Then again, as it has been the case in many sectors, it is argued that the tourism industry is in one way or another bigoted against the female gender; especially in the area of women’s participation in the planning and decision making processes of the sector.
Why does it matter? As Margaret Thatcher once said, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” From the traditional setup of our society, the woman’s place was known to be in the confines of the home. The situation has gradually changed and today’s society acknowledges that the place of women is equally as important in community development as that of men. Empowering women and implementing gender equality in the tourism industry cannot be overlooked; since their contribution to the sector’s improvement as well as in decision making processes, goes a long way in ensuring an all-inclusive success story of sustainable economic development.
It is no secret that horizontally both men and women dominate in most areas of the tourism industry from hotel receptionists, cleaners, game rangers, tour guides, administrators, gardeners, travel agents, flight attendants and drivers among other positions. However, a clear distinction is visible in the vertical order of occupation, with few women holding important leadership posts that would give them a platform to develop themselves career wise as well as implement their ideas to drive forward the tourism industry. This is in comparison to the male gender that dominates most managerial positions, a situation that is prevalent across the entire job market.
I may sound more like a feminist, but I would agree with Bell Hooks who says that “Feminism is for everybody”. If so, we would all concur that gender equality in the tourism industry, which will largely be contributed by empowering women to freely compete with their male counterparts; will create a big impact in the sector that according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), contributes approximately US$7.2 trillion to the global GDP and is expected to grow at 4% annually.
Estelle Verdier, the Managing Director of Jumia Travel East and Southern Africa, which is Africa’s leading online hotel booking company, points out that “organizations which are gender sensitive in the workplace are set to perform exceptionally better, since the inclusion enables them to generate growth driven ideas that go beyond the boardroom to being fully implemented.” The opposite is also true that absenting women from important decision-making processes derails the growth progress of organizations, as well as the general economy.
It is therefore essential to put in place policies that will encourage gender inclusion in building an even stronger tourism industry. For instance, during the World Economic Forum held in Davos earlier this year, Accor Hotels’ CEO Sebastien Bazin emphasized on the importance of gender equality in the workplace, saying individuals doing similar work should be remunerated equally despite their gender. In this regard, he pledged that Accor would have 35% female hotel managers by the end of 2017. Such initiatives will consequently help achieve the provision of quality life for all, financial stability for the majority and most importantly sustainable development.
Josephine Wawira, Jumia Travel