Women in travel routinely earn less than male colleagues, we must provide the tools for career development, says Sarah Clayton-Turner, new AWTE chair

The recent report from C&M Recruitment revealed that women in travel are routinely earning less than their male equivalents, despite holding the vast majority of roles within the industry. This is disheartening news given that our industry as a whole employs at least as many women as men. Phocuswright estimates that over 80% of people working in travel agencies are women and yet at ‘C-level’ women are few and far between.

According to a report by Deloitte last year, women won’t see financial equality until 2069. That’s almost 100 years after the initial Equal Pay act was implemented.

But let’s not get our heckles up about travel being the worst perpetrator– this issue isn’t specific to our industry. The likes of Natalie Portman, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep and many other actresses have also hit out at the gender pay gap. But why, 100 years down the line are we have things not improved?

It’s a bit like a sleeping lion. We all know it’s there; but who is brave enough to put their hands above the parapet and talk about it? Certainly from the small amount of research I’ve done in to the subject, there’s not a huge amount of people sharing their opinions and asking why and how this can still be happening?

It’s disappointing that we still see such headlines, but for us women I think it’s no surprise. I’ve spoken to a number of senior colleagues and friends (both in travel and out) about it and there are common themes that keep bouncing back, “we’re not as brave as men in asking for a pay rise”, “my senior role is more through luck than judgement”, “probably because we work part-time more than men due to family commitments”.

This lack of confidence has even been branded as ‘imposter syndrome.’ Our underlying fear of ‘being found out’ that you are not qualified to do the job you have somehow miraculously managed to get. Women returning to work after having children are most likely to have this as they feel out of the loop from corporate life and yet many companies say mothers are some of the most efficient and reliable team members as they become adept at juggling priorities.

I know of at least two cases where a male colleague’s salary was discovered and there was a difference in salary for the same role. One was brave enough to speak up about it and ended up on the same salary, the other…yep, you guessed it, kept quiet as didn’t want to be seen to stirring up trouble.

Whatever the reasons are behind the pay gap, the fact is, from next year, companies with over 250 employees will have to start addressing this issue as they are being forced to reveal their pay gap, so this will undoubtedly include a number of travel companies. So are some of these companies now in panic mode, or are they quietly confident when their results are produced. Whilst this may go some way to addressing the larger companies, what about the high number of SME’s?

In travel we’re lucky. We probably have a higher ratio of women in senior and executive roles compared to other industries. We have to ensure that we continue to work together to attract bright, new talent.

Having just recently taken the helm of AWTE, many times I have been asked, why there’s a need for a women only association (which we’re not now by the way, we also have a high number of male company members who are brilliantly supporting women in business.)

Whilst we see headlines such as these, I believe there is still very much a need for a women’s support network within the industry. We work hard to support women to develop their careers and to provide the tools and confidence to go out there and smash it, and who knows… not feel like an imposter!