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Women in Tourism: Gender Equality within Scottish Tourism

A letter to Marc Crothall of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, from Susan Russell, Chair of Women in Tourism 

I write on the eve of the 2019 annual Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) conference to highlight my disappointment at the speaker list in relation to its reflection of our industry.  From the 15 keynote speakers promoted, only four (25%) are female.  I understand that curating an event of this scale can be challenging to ensure a balance of thought-leaders, experts, sponsors and patrons (there are three STA patrons on stage) but the line-up also needs to ensure it fully represents those that work across the tourism economy.

It was four years ago, in the Spring of 2015 when attending the STA Conference that the idea for the formation of Women In Tourism started to take shape when 9 out of the 11 of speakers on stage at the EICC were men.  The STA Chair’s response to social media coverage on the day was during that night’s Parliamentary Reception when Mr Leckie addressed the crowd and stated, ‘we invited women; they just didn’t come’.  The response at that time was disappointing and I feel that since then little has been done to address the balance.

At the Women In Tourism Conference in Glasgow on November 19th, when asked by a member of the audience if enough was being done to support women into leadership positions you stated that as an industry we weren’t yet doing enough.  As legacy from the Year of Young People, we should be motivating and encouraging our young people into considering tourism as a career of choice; and ensuring there are role models present at national events is one such way to do so.  As such I implore the STA team to ensure that future events strive to have a stronger gender balance when curating any programme.

While a balanced agenda should ensure that the roles and organisations presenting are both of interest to attendees and the sector at large; it’s frustrating to recognise that in four years, as an industry, we are still not reflecting our sector on stage  As you know, 60% of those working in tourism and hospitality are female and I feel it’s a small ask to ensure we fully represent those working within it within any national event.

At this time, I put forward a request in line with the evolving future tourism strategy that we take this opportunity to fully address equality and diversity.  Until those leading and working within our industry recognise and proactively address the issues being faced; we will only make incremental steps towards a positive resolution.

Skills development and driving career opportunities need to be at the heart of our future activity to ensure we are seen as a career of choice, and we must empower women within the industry to be ambitious and reach their full potential.  Ensuring a balanced agenda at any national event is just one small step towards this.

I appreciate you taking the time to review and consider our request.

Yours Sincerely

Susan Russell

Chair – Women In Tourism