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Travo Business Breakfast: Women mentors needed to inspire female leaders

Posted by Lee Hayhurst on
Travo Business Breakfast: Women mentors needed to inspire female leaders

Travolution held its first Business Breakfast of the year at the head offices of Facebook in London where women leaders in travel and technology discussed how travel firms can address gender diversity in roles often dominated by men

There needs to be more mentors and role models in the travel and technology sector to inspire future generations of female leaders in the industry.

Senior women executives and founders spoke at this week’s Travolution Business Breakfast on women in travel technology hosted by Facebook in their London headquarters.


Gallery: Business Breakfast Women in Travel 


All agreed that mentorship is hugely important to give future women leaders the confidence as they begin their careers, but that it can be difficult to find.

Radha Vyas, founder and chief executive of travel start-up Flash Pack, said, having left the voluntary sector for travel in 2015, she has not found many fellow female founders.

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“I could name maybe one or two I have connected with over that entire time who have set up a business, which is a shame.

“Especially in the travel industry, which I have found to be quite male dominated, so I have looked to adjacent industries for that mentorship.”

Vyas said she saw the benefit is finding someone who had “carved out a similar path” in their careers, specifically starting a business while also being a young mum.

Cat Jones, managing director of start-up accelerator Founders Factory, said her early role model was Sarah Wood, founder of Unruly, where she previously worked.

But she said having returned to travel with Founders Factory, she has found there are very few senior women around.

“It’s difficult finding women entrepreneurs doing incredible things, and it’s even more difficult in travel,” she said.

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“We have had to be very proactive around sourcing, doing a lot more outbound work, particularly around women.”

Founders Factory also has an advisory board drawn from corporates and serial entrepreneurs, yet Jones said “it’s really tough to find those amazing women”.

Jones added, it was remarkable that just 7% of venture capitalist investment going to female-founded businesses.

Vyas said when she pitched for funding along with seven other firms at the London Stock Exchange in 2016 Flash Pack has already surpassed £1 million in revenue.

At the time, she said, she had 12 other investors “biting her hand off to invest”, and the room was full of men and five of the other firms pitching were founded by men.

“That was when the penny dropped. I had done 200% more than anyone else pitching that day. People do invest in people who look like them.”

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In an earlier travel trade panel, women executives from Travelport, Flight Centre and Tui spoke about role models and what their firms are doing to encourage gender diversity.

Suzanne Crockett, leisure technology leader at flight Centre, said she moved into her current role from an operational background thanks to an executive mentor.

“We have a fast-track programme to identify people early on in their careers and help nurture them through mentorship,” she said.

Claire Osborne, Travelport head of local product and technology, said her most important mentor was a man and she was encouraged to move from a more sales-based role.

“The thing that encouraged me at Travelport, is their interest in me as an individual not me as a woman.

“They have helped me to build my skills and helped me to diversify, giving me a range of things to get involved in in the business, which is really encouraging.”

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Tui head of data science, analytics and business intelligence, Kinnari Ladha, said she had become more aware of gender imbalance as she has become more senior.

But she said Tui has worked on reaching out to local schools near Luton where it is based to encourage girls to take STEM subjects and partnered with industry group Women In Data.

“I realise, getting to a certain level, I have got a lot of experience and can help others in their careers. People want that advice and there is not clear defined path.

“People tend to say; ‘how did you get to where you got to?’ I say I just enjoy what I do, there was no real career path.”

GalleryBusiness Breakfast Women in Travel 

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