How is the travel industry closing the gender pay gap?

Female and male gender symbol on coins. Gender wage gap.

Today is Equal Pay Day, a date chosen by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) to mark the additional days from the end of financial year women would have to work to earn the same average pay as men. This year it was an additional 56 days.

The average pay disparity between men and women has narrowed by another 0.3 per cent this year to a national gap of 13 per cent, but Aussie workplaces, including those within the travel industry, still have some way to go.

Fortunately, across the broad spectrum of the industry, many leading companies are doing their part to close this gap. 

Sue Badyari, the CEO of World Expeditions, told Travel Weekly that while the industry has come ahead in great strides, there are still areas that need improvement.

Sue Badyari. (Supplied)

Among those include, “Garnering greater leadership representation of females, flexible work arrangements for working mothers and an industry-wide collective effort in closing the gender pay gap,” Badyari said. 

Flexible Working Options

Flexible work options are more often taken up by women overall, with research from Diversity Council Australia (DCA) showing that 72 per cent of women used flexible work options over the past year, whereas just 57 per cent of men did. Flexible working conditions are an important part of workforce participation for those with caring responsibilities, which disproportionately fall to women.

Caring for family and workforce participation has account for an estimated 33 per cent of the gender pay gap, according to DCA, and the council emphasises the importance of men accessing flexible work in closing this pay gap.

Praising the merit of flexible working is Mary Hogg, Hilton Australasia’s HR director.

“We have proved that flexible working practises can and do work within operational roles, even implementing a whole team 9 day fortnight unilaterally across one of our properties,” she said.

Mary Hogg (LinkedIn/mary-hogg)

“This is still an area that could be better embraced across the travel industry as a whole and we have seen that it’s not enough to just offer a policy, you need to be proactive in role modelling it and encouraging your team to give it a try.”

Alongside flexible working options, a factor contributing towards the gender pay gap is access to paid parental leave. While highly important for women, making paid parental leave not only accessible for men but equitable is seen as a progressive shift by Hogg that can facilitate closing the pay gap and allow parents to share critical bonding time with their child or children.

Women in Leadership

While the travel industry is majority female, there exists disparities in female representation at the leadership levels. Intrepid’s chief people officer, Meegan Marshall, believes that the way to address this is by looking at the root causes behind women not progressing from middle management into senior roles.

Meegan Marshall (LinkedIn/meegan-marshall)

How can we support them better?” Marshall asks.

“What are the barriers? What biases still exist? What myths do we need to bust in the employment market about the travel industry? I am a senior working mum and the travel industry can be extremely rewarding and interesting, and you can make it work with a family, but I think we can do a better job of sharing successful stories.”

Marshall says that an integral part of this is visible male allyship for women in the industry. By helping turn heads and re-adjusting gendered attitudes, men can play an active part in closing the gender pay gap.

Mentorship Programs

Badyari praised the role that induction and mentoring programs have had for World Expeditions’ representation for female tour guides.

“We have now have 54 per cent of our Australian tour leaders being female and this is something we’ve worked deliberately and diligently at over the last 5 years,” she said. Badyari highlighted the importance of gender inclusivity when it comes to travel, highlighting the importance that it plays in enhancing the overall trip experience.

Echoing Badyari’s sentiment was Hogg who praised the development programs at Hilton and their role in counteracting the disparity in female representation at leadership levels.

“Whether it’s understanding the point of seniority where we lose gender equity or analysing who stays and grows with us, our data points around gender, age etc tell us the story we’re sometimes too close to see. We can then use this to engage with specific groups or locations which has helped us to increase numbers on some of our critical leadership development programs or increase the number of mentor or sponsor matches.”

The travel industry still has some way to go regarding the pay gap, but with ongoing changes we can expect to see the pay gap close further year-on-year.


Featured Image: Female and male gender symbol on coins. Gender wage gap. (iStock/kemelbas)

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