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4 ways to elevate the Wonder Women among us

Nicki Gaynor

VP Commercial, Global Customers, Travel Channels Online - Amadeus

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March is Women’s History Month, the month we honor women’s contributions to events that have shaped history and contemporary society. It’s easy to think of famous “Wonder Women” who’ve improved our world, like Mother Teresa and the NASA mathematicians who sent John Glenn into space.

But what about the Wonder Women among us, those who are making a difference in our everyday workplaces? And equally important, what more should our companies be doing to recognize, reward and elevate these star performers for the contributions they make to our organizations?

I believe that if we pay closer attention to these questions, important answers will emerge. Here are four ways we can elevate the next generation of female leaders, so more women in travel technology will win.

1. Lead from the top

In a recent editorial, Krista Pappas, senior VP of business development at Lola, reports that 76% of respondents in a Phocuswright study cited the “absence of a plan to cultivate talent” as the No. 1 obstacle preventing employees, especially women, from rising to leadership positions. Pappas says that without processes in place to make gender parity a reality, we merely give lip service to the problem. The study revealed important steps companies can take to improve gender parity, such as training to recognize unconscious bias, pay scale updates, employee resource groups, and more.

One effective solution that’s being implemented at Royal Bank of Canada is a CV screening process that “erases” gender bias from resumes. Before the candidate’s CV gets circulated to potential hiring managers, the recruiting agency removes all gender-revealing verbiage, ensuring that only key results, expertise and skills are shared. This process helps banish unconscious biases someone may form about a candidate for any reason, be it gender, age, ethnicity, or something else.

Food for thought: If you’ve not done so (or your skills could use a reboot), enroll in a diversity training course. Also educate yourself about what “unconscious bias” looks and feels like; the training will change your view about those who are different from you.

2. Lift as you climb

Initiatives like the GBTA Ladders mentoring program give participants the opportunity to expand their professional development in the travel industry. Mentors are accomplished executives with real-world success, and mentees benefit from building important connections and skills to enhance their career journey.

Mentoring doesn’t have to be formal to be effective. I currently mentor three people, a mix of male and female. I primarily serve as a sounding board, making myself available for day-to-day questions and topics they wish to discuss. For example, I recently helped a mentee prepare a presentation to top Amadeus leadership. It was rewarding to see my colleague structure and deliver the presentation in a way that was impactful, relevant and concise. “Lift as you climb” should be everyone’s mantra when it comes to mentoring.

Food for thought:  Forbes.com reports that modern mentoring is the key to retaining millennials. Those who intend to stay with an organization 5+ years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%). If you are not actively mentoring or being mentored, who might you partner with?

3. Push for parity

I recently attended the Expedia Women’s Conference and heard Melissa Maher speak. Melissa is the senior VP of marketing and innovation at Expedia Group, and heads up the company’s “Leading 4 Change” diversity and inclusion initiative. According to Melissa, the travel technology industry still has a long way to go in terms of gender parity, diversity and inclusion. However, new strides could include offering flexible working, mentoring, career development and networking programs for female employees.

Here is an Expedia idea I love, that any company can emulate. When the Expedia HR team recruits for senior director and above levels, they mandate that at least one female interviewee and one female interviewer is involved in the process. As the old adage goes, “What gets measured gets done.” Kudos to CEO Mark Okerstrom, who reports a 29% quota of women in the Expedia leadership team, with a 30% goal by 2020.

Food for thought: What measurements have your company put in place to ensure a significant percentage of female leaders share a seat at the table? How can you effect new changes?

4. Dare to dream

Bonny Simi is the founding force behind JetBlue Technology Ventures. At age 14, Bonny set dream goals to be a pilot, Olympian and TV commentator – and she achieved them all. Today Bonny enjoys helping entrepreneurs achieve their dreams. She joined JetBlue in 2003 and currently serves as the company’s VP of talent. Bonny graduated from Stanford University with three degrees, and says, “You have to have a dream for a dream to come true.”

Food for thought: Make a list of the dreams you’re dreaming and your plans to reach them. If you’re still hoping for a more inclusive workplace, what steps will you take to make that dream come true?

When women win, we all win

In summary, our planet is a much better place today, thanks to strong women like Malala Yousafzai, Meryl Streep and Rosa Parks who dared to push the boundaries of gender and equality in a male-dominated world. In the technology sphere, Mashable’s noteworthy list of the 15 most important women in technology reinforces just how important we truly are!

As we celebrate the final weeks of Women’s History Month, I hope we’ll all think a little harder about new ways we can elevate our fellow females in the workplace. And as the character Antiope says to Diana in the 2017 Wonder Woman blockbuster film, “You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know.”


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