Traveling for work as a woman is less safe than traveling
as a man, according to 71 percent of female respondents in a recent global
survey of business travelers.
The survey, commissioned by World Travel Protection
ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, included 2,000 business travelers
in the U.K., U.S., Australia and Canada and found that women are more likely to
take measures to protect their safety during a business trip than men.
Close to one in three (31 percent) said they do not
travel or go out on their own at night, compared to 18 percent of men, and
almost half (46 percent) always stay in close touch with family and friends so
their whereabouts are known, compared to 36 percent of men.
More than one in 10 female business travelers (12 percent)
said they have experienced a negative incident, ranging from minor theft to
assault, when traveling and almost one in five (19 percent) feel their organization
should “act with women's safety in mind,” such as ensuring flights don’t arrive
late at night.
That said, both men and women reported taking extra
steps to protect their security during a hotel stay, like placing a chair or
obstacle against the hotel door to deter a potential intruder (16 percent of
both men and women), and using room service so they don’t have to eat in a
restaurant on their own (17 percent of both men and women).
One in five female business travelers (21 percent)
said they prefer to stay in hotels that make provision for solo women travelers
and a similar proportion (19 percent) resort to outward signaling like wearing
a wedding ring (real or fake) to avoid unwanted attention.
“It’s important to note that, compared to
men, women often have different safety considerations to think about
when traveling for work,” World Travel Protection regional security director for
EMEA Kate Fitzpatrick said, noting that risks for female travelers increase in
countries with where women have fewer legal rights or less equality socially
and, therefore, need to be educated prior to traveling to such markets so they
can make the right decisions for themselves.
Business Travel as Workplace Equality
Companies like Maiden Voyage have specialized in business
travel diversity education, including female business travel safety, for a
number of years. The company offers both in-person and online learning programs
that provide insights both into women’s experiences and safety considerations
while traveling on business and employs security advisors and educators with
long experience in travel safety for diverse groups of travelers.
International SOS and other dedicated risk management
firms also have developed focused education around the elevated concerns and
considerations of female business travelers, which ISOS has identified
as physical and sexual violence, harassment, and discrimination.
The firm takes the position that mitigating such
concerns in the employee’s day-to-day work environment—as well as when she is
traveling on business—goes beyond personal safety. Rather, it is an issue of equality
and providing equal opportunity to women in the workplace.
“Empowering women to participate in the same opportunities
as their male colleagues, including traveling to or working in higher risk
environments, is an important way to drive female participation in the
workplace and offer diverse career pathways,” said ISOS global security
director Sally Llewellyn. “Organizations can support this empowerment through
sound risk management practices, including educating employees about security
risks and mitigation measures based on the environments in which they’re
operating and their individual profile,” including when they travel, she added.
In addition to overall awareness training for all employees
around certain risks women face while traveling, ISOS similarly recommends specific
pre-travel training when considering travel to destinations with elevated risks
so the traveling employee understands particular differences or trouble spots
that may apply to women.
Education Is Key but What About Tools?
Consumer travel metasearch provider WayAway has challenged the
industry to find technology-based solutions that would provide less formal—but
possibly effective—trip planning tactics for female travelers, whether they are
traveling for leisure or for business.
According to a straw poll on the WayAway website, four
times as many women as men felt that ‘traveling alone is unsafe,’ even as
Google searches for ‘solo female travel’ have quadrupled over the last 10 years,
according to the travel site.
Head of communications for WayAway Janis Dzenis lamented in
a press statement that while “almost every possible tool has been invented for
every possible niche,” when it comes to travel, “for female solo travelers, the
technology on offer is, with few exceptions, pretty substandard and … far from
She challenged the travel industry to consider trip
planning through the eyes of a solo female traveler, and predicted a huge
uptake for travel tech providers who could flip the switch on effective tools.
“How many websites have filters that might cater for such needs?
How many allow you to see female-only commentaries and ratings?” she asked. “For those travel technology companies that can really make
an impact in this area, there is a huge financial reward on offer too. Female
travelers will naturally gravitate towards, perhaps even swamp, travel
platforms that can offer them the reassurances they understandably crave.”