Happy International Women’s Day!
We love celebrating all the amazing women in our industry and that’s why we’ve decided to sit down (well this interview was conducted standing up) with some champions of women’s issues in travel
Here, we’ve got Louise Laing, general manager marketing ANZ at Intrepid to shine a light on empowering women in the workplace, why women’s tours are so popular and where the industry has room for improvement with women’s issues (even Intrepid).
Check out her words of wisdom below!
Travel Weekly: What’s your favourite way that Intrepid empowers women in the workplace?
Louise Laing: Gender equality is in the DNA of Intrepid. It starts at the top: we have equal gender representation on the board, and our Global CEO James Thornton is a champion for women and non-binary people across all corners of the business. We are transparent and hold ourselves accountable with a global pay equity report, set goals on the number of female tour leaders, and are working towards more women-owned businesses in our supply chain. We also have a range of women’s expeditions – all-female tours led by female guides. I’m doing one in Morocco next month – and I can’t wait.
We look for opportunities to amplify women’s voices year-round in all the countries we operate in, not just on IWD. Our commitment to make the world a better place for women is not token, it’s ingrained in everything we do.
Intrepid is a business that opens doors for everyone; women, men and non-binary people, to move up and across departments. It’s not unusual for someone to join, then quickly work their way up and across to other parts of the business. This gives women the chance to pursue career paths that otherwise may not have available to them. For example, tech or mechanic roles that have been traditionally more male-dominated.
TW: What’s something, in particular, that Intrepid is really looking to promote this IWD?
LL: Our women’s expeditions are important and life-changing trips. They’re uniquely Intrepid. We have just launched a brand-new trip to Pakistan. Aneeqa, our local tour leader, focuses on female empowerment, engagement and connection to community. We’re highlighting this range of trips because they create opportunities for female-based suppliers in countries where women don’t necessarily have equal access to opportunities.
The Morocco women’s expedition I’m doing will take me to the remote and less travelled areas. We will break bread with families in remote homes, visit an artist co-op empowering female rug-weavers and hike with the regions’ first female tour guide. It’s the most excited I’ve been about an upcoming holiday in years! We have other trips in Nepal and India, too. So International Women’s Day will really be centring the conversation around those trips and celebrating the communities we visit on those trips.
TW: You kind of just answered my question there but I was going to say, what’s the women’s tour that Intrepid offers that’s a personal favourite for you?
LL: I will let you know how I go, but the Morocco women’s expedition is one that I’m doing this next month. When I saw the Pakistan tour announced it caught my eye, and there’s also one in Iran that we run which has been extremely popular.
When we restart operations in Iran again, I have no doubt Intrepid travellers will be back there with full support, especially with the current situation in Iran. I can’t wait to see that trip up and running again.
TW: Do you think the popularity of (women’s tours) in these particular countries has to do with the actual nature of the countries themselves?
LL: I do. These itineraries are created by our local Intrepid DMC offices, so the people and the women in the local offices make these itineraries through their local connections with the local communities. They find these incredible female-focused suppliers and the experiences that put women in the centre of the conversation.
It’s important to listen, learn and understand women around the globe and what is important to them and their communities. I think that’s why our women’s expeditions are so popular. I was recently at a media event, and every female journalist I spoke to about these trips were captivated. The mention of launching the Pakistan tour captures peoples’ interests. The opportunity to go to Iran and spend time with local women in their space, to go to a nail or hair salon with local women, lights people up. It’s the type of opportunity you can’t get when you’re travelling on your own and it’s exactly the type of experience-rich opportunity Intrepid creates with these trips.
TW: Intrepid has its B Corp certification, which puts it of a certain standard, but where do you think in the broader travel industry there’s room for improvement in terms of women’s issues?
LL: There are a lot of females working in the travel industry, however when you look at the people in senior leadership roles – they’re often still predominantly men.
I’d challenge everyone in our industry to ask, why is that? And ask what policies and practices are in place in your own organisation to make sure women have equal opportunity to sit around all the metaphorical tables.
TW: Do you think there’s an area where Intrepid has room to grow in that same area?
LL: Intrepid has a history of being a champion for gender quality and inclusiveness. As a B Corp, we are always looking for ways to do better across every area of our business, and we report on it in our Intergrated Annual Report. While we acknowledge we’re doing the best we can right now, there’s always room to improve. We have goals to grow the number of female tour leaders, which is currently at about 30 per cent.
Anywhere where there are women in the workplace, we need to look at how we can continue to have them represented and their voices heard. I’m not a parent, and I also understand parental leave can be challenging for people who are juggling work and home life, and there’s room for us to keep evolving in this area.
The Intrepid Foundation is always looking for deepening connection with community and gender equality is a key focus for this. Many of our community partnerships invest in organisations that are making meaningful change to women across the world.