Opinion: Let’s work on fixing travel’s gender pay gap

Opinion: Let’s work on fixing travel’s gender pay gap

Sector must appoint more women to senior positions, says Gemma Antrobus, chairman of Aito Specialist Travel Agents. 

In 1970 a lovely little piece of legislation, known as the Equal Pay Act, was introduced by the UK Parliament in a bid to combat the divide between the amount men and women were paid to do the same job.

In 2010 this was superseded by the Equality Act, which brought together 116 different pieces of legislation to get rid of unfair treatment of employees in the workplace and wider society.

So why, after nearly 50 years, are we still having to measure and openly disclose how large or small the ‘gender pay gap’ is in our businesses? Quite simply, there shouldn’t be one! I’m no rocket scientist, but surely if you break the law then you should be punished accordingly – isn’t that how it works?

Whose fault is it?

Forgetting about other industries and focusing on just our own, why do we have figures as high as 67% (that is Ryanair, in case you’re wondering) being reported as the pay gap between their male and female employees? Hot on Ryanair’s tail are easyJet (52%) and BA (35%).

I’ve read a few articles this week blaming these particular stats on the lack of female pilots in their businesses. You’ve got to ask yourself, whose fault is that?

Because the gender pay gap is calculated on a median value of all male salaries against all female salaries, the only way to translate these figures is to assume that companies with higher gender pay gaps either pay men and women differently for doing the same job, or have more men than women in senior, higher-paid positions.

Having just Googled the senior management team of the aforementioned airline, it’s no surprise that all eight of them are men. Of those eight job roles, were there genuinely no women of equal competence applying, or suitable for, these positions?

Senior appointments

The can of worms this opens up is something I really didn’t think existed so much in our industry anymore – or was I just pretending it didn’t?

Travel hugely supports women. We have associations dedicated to women, mentoring for women, award ceremonies just for women – but is it necessary to have these champions to continue to keep our female-to-male ratio high, particularly at senior level?

Becoming the first female chair of Aito Specialist Travel Agents in 2014 was both an honour and a privilege, and I hope sets a precedent for more female chairs in the future.

In my role, I get to meet many senior leaders of both large and small travel businesses and, while quite often I’m surrounded by women, more often I’m one of few.

This is what needs to continue to change, and then the gender pay gap will close.

I will always be a massive advocate for equality in the workplace, so let’s work on fixing the gender gap in all positions; the pay gap will then right itself naturally.


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