The head of the Equal Opportunities Commission has called on industry leaders to recognise their failure to develop more women as managers.
Commission chair Jenny Watson told the Institute of Travel and Tourism Conference: “The travel industry is overwhelmingly staffed by women. But there are few women at the top.
“However, I’m not just talking about chief executives and smashing the glass ceiling. This is about getting women off a ‘sticky floor’ and into management.”
Watson said women spend an average two years out of the labour market because of childbirth, yet go back to work to find their choice constrained.
“They often want a family and a career but realise it is not possible as there is just part-time work on offer,” she said, adding that research shows four out of five part-time workers are employed below their potential.
Watson insisted the case for re-organising work to allow greater flexibility for women made business sense and was not a moral question.
”Better utilisation of women’s skills is essential. At the moment there is enormous waste,” she said. “But it requires a transformation in working culture. Think about flexibility act across the life course of staff. Implement flexibility day to day.”
Watson praised Travel Counsellors as being “ahead of the curve” on the issue and criticised the Government for not doing more to aid small businesses by helping with the cost of maternity cover and technology to allow greater flexibility.
She said: “Leaders in the travel industry need to see this as a major issue and commit to change.”