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Walk in our footsteps and #InspireInclusion this International Women’s Day

Next year it will have been ten years since the founding members of Women In Tourism came together to discuss both the challenges and opportunities of being a woman working within the tourism industry.  In 2017 the group was formally created as a membership organisation, and since then we have seen significant change, and with that, one of the most turbulent periods (globally) in our industry’s history.

International Women’s Day (#IWD2024) has always feel like a natural time to reflect, review, and look ahead, and this year is no different.  In 2024 the theme is #InspireInculsion, and while we should always be inspiring inclusion, in every way possible; what does it take to walk in those footsteps and make meaningful, and long-lasting change?  In March 2023 the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and UN Women, jointly reaffirmed their commitment to ensure women’s empowerment remained ‘Centre Stage of tourism development’.  While the UK is undoubtedly a more mature tourism industry than other counties, many of the challenges felt around the world also impact those working within tourism in Scotland, and the UK.

According to the UNWTO, 54% of the global tourism workforce is female, however that is likely where the gender similarities end.  The same research revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic hit women harder than our male counterparts, with women more likely to lose their job, have their hours (or pay) reduced or shoulder more care responsibilities.  This chimes with research WIT undertook back in 2016, which highlighted that one in three women felt having a family or being a carer had an impact on their career.

In financial terms there is also still a significant amount of work to be done.  According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the median hourly pay for full-time employees was 7.7% less for women than men (April 2023).  However, this increases to 14.5% when we look at the ‘travel industry’ as a comparator for our sector.

The World Economic Forum anticipates it could take 136 years at the current rate to close the gender pay gap;  with the Guardian stating that in the UK, those over 40 won’t see a the gap close until they are pensioners…  reflecting decades of frustration and disappointment that women are still not compensated fairly in their workplace.

Supporting inclusion it is not simply using a hashtag on #IWD2024, it is recognition that there is still lots of work to do to ensure that women don’t just ‘have a seat at the table’, but are fully represented in Board rooms and on leadership teams.

So this International Women’s Day our ask is simple.  Inspire Inclusion.  Every day.  Champion those around you, challenge those that could (and should) be doing better; and continue to advocate for those working in your organization, or industry to be seen, and celebrated.

Women In Tourism’s founding principles are to encourage, motivate and support women into positions of leadership.  Join us this #IWD2024 in locations across Scotland to reconnect, meet new colleagues and shine a light on women working in tourism, across the country.