Last year, she was one of the highest paid CEOs in online travel.
She was hailed as the most successful figure in the industry, with headlines praising her humble attitude and modest lifestyle.
And it’s all true. Gillian Tans, the CEO of Booking.com, is remarkably down to earth and casual about her success.
“I never set out to become CEO of one of the world’s leading technology companies, but I’ve always been steered by my curiosity. This led to quite a non-traditional career path and got me where I am today,” Tans told Travel Weekly from her headquarters in Amsterdam.
As one of the most powerful figures in both the travel and tech space, Tans said she is in a unique position to encourage and support women in both fields.
Tans is passionate about changing the dynamic and getting greater numbers of women involved in both industries.
“Technology is one of the key drivers of social and economic change, and as the CEO of Booking.com, I am able to play my part in that,” Tans says with purpose.
“There are women all over the world who are making an incredible impact in technology every day. However, there is still a strong under-representation of women in tech in general.
“This needs to change. Not only do we need more women in technology, we also need to see more of these women in leadership roles.
“One of the barriers cited most often by women is the lack of visible role models.
“Therefore, as a female tech leader, one of my key responsibilities is to share my story and to support, empower and inspire others,” she said.
It’s precisely for this reason that Tans has spearheaded a number of ongoing and active initiatives to try and make the industry a more attractive career choice for talented women.
Booking.com has launched a number of Women in Tech initiatives, both within the walls of the company and outside, including the Booking.com Technology Playmaker Awards, an initiative designed to celebrate, recognise and encourage women at all stages of their career who are disrupting businesses, industries and communities through the use of technology.
“We held our first Technology Playmaker Awards gala dinner coinciding with International Women’s Day this year – seeing so many talented, inspiring women committed to blazing a trail for others was a humbling and incredible moment for me.”
The company has also introduced a scholarship program with two leading European universities – Oxford University and Delft TU – and mentoring program for women at leading tech conferences such as Web Summit, as well as supporting the aims of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition of the European Commission.
Having led Booking.com through the transition from its small start-up beginnings, to being one of the largest e-commerce players in the world, Tans is very proud of the company’s achievements.
“We’ve managed to do so while preserving our own entrepreneurial culture.” It’s through this entrepreneurial vibe and startup mentality that Booking.com is really set apart. And Tans attributes it to the company’s intrinsic ethos.
“The culture and values of Booking.com inform everything we do on a daily basis and we have been careful to preserve these as we have grown.
“They support our community and ambitions, and conversations around these foundational tenets start from day one at onboarding and throughout everyone’s career at Booking.com.
“While managers play a very central role within this, with our bottom-up culture, colleagues within the team also have an impact in carrying over that culture.”