< PrevNext > Carolyn Pearson Maiden Voyage CEO Share Pearson began Maiden Voyage when she was a business traveler working in IT, primarily with travel and media companies. The social network for female business travelers has turned into a duty of care company that certifies women-friendly hotels and provides enterprise training on the challenges women face as business travelers. According to Pearson, what’s good for female business travelers can transfer to other groups and will support comprehensive duty of care for all travelers. She spoke with BTN editor-in-chief Elizabeth West.How did you form the concept for Maiden Voyage?I was on a business trip to Los Angeles, where I’d been before as backpacker. When I got there as a business traveler, I suddenly felt less gung ho than before. It seemed difficult to find a place for dinner and figure out how to get around. I felt constricted. It was a shame. I wanted to get out and go to nice places with some like-minded company. I assumed there were women all over the world with the same situation. I didn’t know what a social platform was 10 years ago, but I wanted to create a platform to connect. I made a basic website. It wasn’t meant to be a business, but it quickly become one.Maiden Voyage found its niche in corporate travel duty of care, tailoring it to women. Does that seem quaint at best or even sexist at worst?The number of women who have suffered a negative incident while traveling on business is troubling. Beyond that, though, the number who felt that they were not prepared by their organizations in how to deal with these incidents is also troubling. Corporate security guys—and it’s a very male dominated industry with a lot of ex-military—have shared with me how nervous they are about being discriminatory or patronizing if they broach the topic of gender. LGBT issues are similar. But there are real issues around the world when it comes to gender: legal status and hardwired cultural norms differ from country to country. Women have different medical issues like pregnancy. Sexual harassment and assault is a much higher risk for women travelers than for men. Homosexuality is punishable by death in some countries. Employees may not share their discomfort with their companies, but they do share their concerns with us. Some have said [such issues] inhibited them in taking their next role because they didn’t feel supported on travel. That shouldn’t happen. We have to have these conversations, and I’m happy to start them.Maiden Voyage just brokered a partnership with GlobalStar. That’s a big one; tell me about it.Three months ago, I didn’t know a partnership this big would be in the picture. Capita Travel & Events, another one of our partners that inspects hotels for us in the U.K., connected us to GlobalStar. SAP Concur has also put their arms around us and, again, Capita works with Concur. It’s a network of people who know and respect our work. These kinds of partnerships give me entree to bigger hotel chains to talk about what Maiden Voyage does with our hotel program. The interest is such now that we are even looking at reviving our hotel training courses that had been on ice for a while.The #metoo movement coincides with Maiden Voyage’s uptick in partnerships. Is there a connection?Yes, I think so. Women are now speaking out, specifically about being harassed on business trips. When I go into the classroom and talk to delegates about traveler safety, I’m hearing that it’s often just as bad at the office. Companies struggle to deal with harassment in the office and even more so with travel, particularly when their own employees are involved as the harassers.If the movement actually succeeds, doesn’t that put companies like yours out of business?I don’t think that Saudi Arabia is going to change its cultural rules soon, and there are many countries where this is the same. In the extreme cases and cultures, we will always need to mitigate. I want women to be able to go anywhere and not need this; but if they do, I want them to have support.