‘Female-friendly’ travel is not about treating women differently; it’s about treating them appropriately, says founder of Maiden Voyage.
More women than ever are travelling for business, and if organisations want to attract and retain highly qualified women in senior positions – which tend to involve more travel – they need to ensure their corporate travel programmes address their needs.
Research done by Maiden Voyage found that one in four women have suffered a negative incident while travelling on business.
Employers have a duty of care to all their employees and they need to be aware of the gender-specific challenges female business travellers face. These can be cultural, with attitudes to women varying from country to country. Or they can be health related. I’ve found, for example, that very few organisations have policies and procedures in place around travelling while pregnant.
Women are also at a higher risk of sexual harassment and assault. Many women I’ve met have been harassed by taxi drivers, who have asked for their phone number or refused to let them out of the car. Handbag theft is another common issue, and this can mean a woman losing all her travel documents, money and phone.
The mission of Maiden Voyage
Our mission is to make business travel safe and social for female business travellers. I was on a business trip to LA when I first decided to create a social networking platform for businesswomen. I was sitting by myself in a hotel and thought how boring and disappointing it was that I’d missed an opportunity to explore the city. I realised that many other women were also sitting in their hotel rooms by themselves, perhaps worried about eating alone or being the subject of unwanted attention.
Female business travellers want connectivity, not only with other members, but also with local ambassadors who can advise on culture and business etiquette. Maiden Voyage also works with large organisations across all sectors to deliver training on safety for female business travellers and offers a corporate platform where women can connect with colleagues who may be in the same location as them.
Certifying female-friendly hotels
‘Female friendly’ is not about treating women differently; it’s about treating women appropriately.
Around 50% of female business travellers have reported feeling vulnerable when staying in a hotel. Hotel operators need to take steps to make sure their guests feel safe. This could be limiting who has access to master keys, being more diligent about allocating rooms, or not announcing room numbers out loud.
We inspect and certify hotels based on both security features and comfort factors identified as ‘must-haves’ by our community. We recently joined forces with NYS Meetings and Events, which will be inspecting hotels across the UK for us, and we will incorporate those that qualify into our database.
For us, it’s really important that any company we work with is passionate and committed to doing something better, and we really admired NYS Meetings and Events' programme, Smarter Working, which has a focus on traveller wellbeing. As hotel experts, NYS Meetings and Events also has fantastic relationships with a huge variety of hotels, and having a big specialist name like them behind this project will mean it gets traction much more quickly. More and more hotels will get the Maiden Voyage stamp of approval, which will benefit both employers and the female business traveller community, who will be safe in the knowledge that the hotels they are staying in are secure.
Carolyn’s 5 tips for a safe solo business trip:
Do your research, understand where you are travelling to and what the risks might be. Try to mitigate those risks.
Identify hotels that are in well-lit, safe areas. Booking a hotel near a train station often seems like a good idea, but they are not always in the most savoury areas.
If the hotel receptionist announces your room number out loud, push back and ask for a different room.
Complacency is your biggest enemy. Even if you have travelled to your destination 20 times, don’t be complacent – and always have a Plan B.
If you are being picked up by a driver, make sure you can easily identify that person as your driver before getting into the car. In the UK, NYS Meetings and Events works in partnership with Cabfind to help support passenger safety and duty of care.
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