We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored. I recently came across this quote from Sheryl Sandberg and it really struck a chord as I began to think about the now-imminent International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8. It resonated with me for many reasons, in both my personal and professional life, particularly when I related it to this year’s theme for IWD #BalanceforBetter
Saying I am grateful for the exceptional women that inhabit and generate balance in my world, would be a gross understatement. Hoping I do the same for them is a perennial aspiration. The females leading the charge in my universe are my wife Toni and her mother Bea. With their remarkable combination of strength, courage, vision, passion and compassion, to me they are a daily example of what balance in life represents. Collectively, they have inspired several generations of both females and males, always exuding an air of effortless capability and balance in all that they do.
To mark IWD last year, I saluted the ladies of the Trafalgar Tribe and recognised the vital role they played in the success of Trafalgar, Costsaver and Brendan. Their part in changing the dynamic of these brands has undoubtedly led to the favourable position we now find ourselves in in the ever-evolving world of travel. Across our business, I remain focused on ensuring that true gender equality becomes a reality and is forever integral to the DNA of our brand. In my view and in my business, female empowerment and advancement are wholly necessary. Equality is an action we all live and breathe within our tribe. It’s never about only this one day, but a consistent recognition throughout the entire year that enables the women in our tribe to understand that they are appreciated for everything that they do. Every single day.
In the past year we have committed to an even greater advancement of women in our business; in reviewing our female ratio, it fills me with immense pride to see our sustained and steady growth in gender equality. In three of our seven regions we now have 100% female leadership: The Americas, Asia and South Africa, with Europe & Britain and Canada coming in closely behind with 90% and 88% respectively. This represents +11.5% in the Americas, +24% in Canada compared to same time in 2018. Overall in our teams we have bettered our balance, with the brand comprising 87% females in New Zealand, 85% South Africa, 84% Australia and 81% in Asia.
As we start to follow #BalanceforBetter and continue our commitment, I will personally be driving the change and ensure we are nominating our female colleagues for yet more opportunities. Far more importantly though, how do we go beyond the hashtags? Beyond this one day in 365 where we collectively commemorate women worldwide? How do we push past the sometimes obstructive boundaries of men vs women?
Firstly, we all have a critical part to play – every day, every week, every month and every year. And everywhere.
Balance drives a better working world. Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, gender-balanced governments, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth and gender-balanced sports coverage.
Wherever I travel, I find myself engaging with inspirational women, with increasingly more of them playing a prominent role in our business. In 2019, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of a concept that not only changed the Trafalgar brand, but changed the travel industry. Be My Guest (BMG) blazed a trail that satiated the desire for travellers to engage locally and authentically. More than a third of our BMGs in Europe are fronted by female enterprise. Too many to mention here, I’d like to share just two of our shining stars that have embraced the opportunity to be heard and heeded:
Travelling in Tuscany to meet Giada:
Image: Giada Landi
As the owner of Villa Il Leccio, a successful agri-turismo enterprise in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Giada Landi seeks inspiration from the strongest woman in her life. “I am inspired by my mother, a great woman who preserved our family’s legacy and lovingly passed down our family traditions from generation to generation”. These traditions are generously shared with Trafalgar guests during each Be My Guest experience that is hosted at Giada’s home, a 19th-century villa that she still lives in today with her own family. Prepared by Giada herself, guests can tuck into an Italian feast made from ingredients grown on the property and wash it all down with locally-produced Chianti. “Working with Trafalgar is a fantastic opportunity to share our beautiful home, its history and the Landi family traditions with people from around the world.”
Further afield there’s a destination and a dynamic group of ladies that found themselves in a situation that made it imperative for them to reshape the conversation (to quote Sheryl) and needed to #BalanceforBetter to sustain their livelihood.
Image: Woman of Demircidere, Turkey
The small village of Demircidere is home to quite possibly Turkey’s most empowered and liberated women, having elected their first female muhtar (head of village) in 1933. Fast forward eight decades to discover the pine-nut production in the village decimated by an insect infestation. With a rapidly diminishing economy, the community came together. Rapidly. Driven by the women, with Trafalgar’s support, they opened up their homes to welcome guests from around the globe the chance to break bread with them, quite literally. In partaking in this particularly humbling Be My Guest, Trafalgar travellers are benefitting the local community and enabling the production of jam, raisins and wine, as well as fostering a positive culture of equality for Turkish women. The ladies wear dresses with a kaleidoscope of colourful sequins, believing shiny things deflect negative energy.
As we all join the conversation and strike a social media pose to advocate #BalanceforBetter this International Women’s day, let’s all channel the vibes of empowerment, equality and unity: to quote Shery Sandberg once more: “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
Image: Gavin striking the balance pose in Verbier