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The Urgency of Women Talent

The Urgency of Women Talent
5th July 2019 Alessandra Alonso
Alessandra Alonso
In Discussion
Urgency of Women Talent

I was recently honoured with an invitation to speak at the Foreign Airline Association Lunch in London. Below is an adapted transcript of the presentation I provided about the quest for gender balance and how to approach it.


Why am I saying that there is urgency behind female talent?

If like me you have been in business for most of your life, you will have no doubt heard many of the arguments around the need for greater diversity.

Truly I wish to talk about how in practice consciously and urgently incorporating female talent in your travel organisation will be a win-win.

However in order to put into context some of the ideas I will propose a little later, let me remind you of the most relevant and well-rehearsed arguments but not too many boring statistics:

  • 80% Of all decisions are made by women and even more so when it comes to family holiday, so it makes sense to have women widely represented when building products and marketing strategies.
  • In the early 2000, researchers at the Lehman Brothers institute at the LBS published a number of studies demonstrating that mixed teams are far more innovative and productive than single sex and totally homogenous teams (Lehmann Sisters might have still been here to tell us more stories, but we can only speculate about that…)
  • When Women are better represented on boards companies outperform their non-diverse competitors

But to me one of the key reasons why we should as industry fish from the whole pond, not just half, is really a question of talent.

  • We all know that Talent is hard to come by.
  • Companies across the travel and tourism industry struggle to fill their positions
  • The current UK context is making filling positions even harder, particularly at entry level – those jobs that British do not wish to do and disenchanted Eastern European are no longer willing to fill.

Yet – if we look at talent slightly more creatively and out of the box, there are solutions within our reach and opportunities just below the radar.

Let me tell you how.

I work with a pool of talent you do not get to see – but is screaming for your attention.
A pool of talent that is willing, available, and ready to impress you – if only it could access you.

Women who through no fault of their own, have had to abandon their country, hide from abusers, free themselves from slavery and focus on where they might be sleeping next.

These women are here in this country but they may as well be on the moon as they are practically invisible.

  • I am talking about H., who was sexually trafficked from Bangladesh in the middle of her university business degree, and even though she has now moved on still fears for the safety of her family.
  • I am talking of A. who as a young widow was rejected by her in-laws, lost everything and found herself on the street.
  • I am talking about G. who fled Syria and her engineering job and ended up in London after 3 years of travels.

At some point these women were all identified as victims – but when I have met them what struck me first and foremost is that they wanted to be identified as human beings, to be given a chance and an opportunity to prove that their life is worth living, that they can contribute to society and make it better.

The thing is: these and the many other women I deal with often have high quality skills, from finance and accounting to hospitality and customer service; they have broad working experience; they have qualifications and degrees and most of all they have bucket loads of RESILIENCE. And who doesn’t need resilience in this age of disruption and change?

What they do not have however is confidence and a network that will enable them to identify and speak to people like you here in this event.

That is why that opportunity is being created for them, through the Women Returners Programme, which identifies, selects, trains these women and then invites employers like yourself to meet them and interview them for possible jobs.

  1. Are they any good? You bet!
  2. Do they get employed? Absolutely!
  3. Are they loyal and committed? Hundred percent!

By accessing this pool of female talent, employers can transform lives and solve some of their recruitment pains. Even better, they can genuinely demonstrate their commitment to social sustainability; they can dialogue with their stake holding communities; they can increase employee engagement by demonstrating they are employers worth working for.

On this point let me give you just one boring statistic: A recent Gallup study concluded that companies with higher than average employee engagement also have 27% higher profits 50% higher sales and 50% higher customer loyalty.

So as you can see I said it was a win-win and I meant it.

Please ensure you consider marginalised women returning to work when you are looking to fill some of your future positions!

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