Tuesday 14 February 2017

GUEST BLOG: There is a gender-specific conversation to be had about travel risk.

Employers are having more pressure put on them to provide adequate duty of care for their business travellers, which applies whether travel is domestic or international. Gender-specific travel safety advice and support isnt about disempowerment or discrimination but about reducing risk, and demonstrates that an organisation takes duty of care seriously in respect to its female employees.
The Women in Business Travel Report, research commissioned by Maiden Voyage in 2016, found that 1 in 4 women have suffered a negative incident. When this occurs in an unfamiliar country, culture or language, the impact on the recipient is exacerbated.
Key findings of the Women in Business Travel Report:
  • 31% of female business travellers have suffered sexual harassment while travelling.
  • 64% of female business travellers say they would not travel to destination which they would probably travel to as a man – including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil.
  • 79% of female business travellers claim they are under-prepared to deal with the incidents they encounter.
  • 75% agreed or strongly agreed that their companies should prioritise suppliers who pay special attention to the needs of female travellers.

With these statistics in mind, protecting the welfare of travelling businesswomen is of paramount importance. Gender-specific duty of care is needed, and it is needed now.
In practise, women travellers frequently face gender-specific challenges:
  • Legal restrictions – In Saudi Arabia women are not permitted to drive. In the UAE, a rape victim will be jailed for the offence of extra-marital sex, a controversial law of which there have been several high-profile cases in the media in the past year.
  • Cultural restrictions – Attitudes to handshakes, bodily contact, and dress codes for women vary across cultures. Failing to adhere to the rules of a culture can be seen as an insult or throw shame upon the woman.
  • Health and pregnancy – Travelling while pregnant has a significant impact upon vaccinations, airline policies, insurance, and consideration of the standards of the local medical services available.
  • Assault and theft – Women are at higher risk of sexual assault, both physical and verbal. Handbag theft is also an all too common occurrence, as handbags are a popular target. For women travellers, this can mean losing their travel documents, money, and their phones, further compounding the safety risk.

Ultimately it is both businesswomen and their organisations that benefit from a gender-specific approach to business travel. Consider the impact of a negative incident such as harassment or assault while travelling, potentially leading to stress, anxiety and poor performance. Or an accidental cultural faux pas, as simple as leaving shoulders or knees bare, which offends the locale and sets a big meeting off to a bad start. Having these conversations ensures that women travellers are adequately informed and prepared for the potential challenges of a business destination.
Today the behaviour of corporate travel procurement is changing, and to such an extent that many companies now ask travel suppliers specifically what they do to support women travellers, as part of the request for proposal process.
Gender-specific duty of care is not about ‘special treatment’ but a personalised approach. It is crucial to recognise that it is not about treating women travellers differently, but appropriately.

This post was written by Rheanna-Marie Hall, Editor of Maiden Voyage. Maiden Voyage will be exhibiting at the Business Travel Show, and look forward to discussing how you can safeguard your female business travellers at stand B286.

Register for a free visitor pass now at www.businesstravelshow.com

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