everywoman in travel awards: cruise executives interviewed

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Did you know that while roughly 60% of people working in the travel industry today are women, the number is more than halved for those on executive boards? For an industry that is renowned for being forward-thinking and inclusive there is clearly a glass ceiling that still exists.

However, things are heading in the right direction and there is an increasing amount of focus being paid to gender equality in the workplace.

To help celebrate women in travel, everywoman – an organisation dedicated to advancing women in business – is holding its inaugural Travel Awards tomorrow. The categories include young game-changer, tomorrow’s leader, entrepreneur, above & beyond, team leader and leader. Among the names of those who have been nominated a number of senior executives within the cruise industry.

We caught up with three of the finalists before the awards to find out more about their own experiences and to ask them what more could be done to increase gender equality in the workplace.


Helen Caron, Thomson Cruises MDHelen Caron, distribution & cruise director, TUI UK – finalist, Leader category

What is your single greatest career achievement to date?
I have always said that the modernisation and transformation of Thomson Cruises, now known as Marella Cruises. Thomson Cruses was a hidden gem within the TUI UK & Ireland business when I joined, but customer feedback told us we were at risk of becoming irrelevant due to our ageing tonnage. In my first two years we secured four ships to join over a four year period and successfully introduced Discovery to the fleet in May 2016, now known as Marella Discovery. This new tonnage is helping us attract a new customer base and allows us to offer our existing customers the onboard facilities they told us were important to them – balcony cabins, more choice of activities and dining options on board. I am proud of the team we have recruited to grow this business and the strategic position cruise now has in the TUI UK & Ireland business. Marella Discovery will also be the first ship to take Marella Crusies customers to Asia in winter 2018.

What advice would you have for other women wanting to get into the travel industry?
Depth and breadth of experience is important – there are so many different avenues in to the industry, find one that works for you but then look at your transferrable skills and see where else they can take you. Remember to network along the way, great relationships will play a key role in your success

While in the post I recruited an all-female management team; they were the best people for the roles

Can you give an example of how you have empowered women within and beyond the workplace?
Before I became the managing director for Thomson Cruises I was the Head of Ireland. While in the post I recruited an all-female management team; they were the best people for the roles with accountability for leading the turnaround of the business as we had to rebuild this business together following the collapse of the economy. This is still an incredibly proud time in my career.


Wendy Atkin-Smith (1)Wendy Atkin-Smith, managing director, Viking Cruises UK – finalist, Leader category

What is your single greatest career achievement to date?
I’ve had many highlights in my career so far, but in terms of achievements, I think my decision to go into television sponsorship was one of my boldest. It drove huge awareness, not just for Viking, but for the whole category and all river cruise companies benefitted. I’m really proud of the results it achieved.

What advice would you have for other women wanting to get into the travel industry?
My advice for other women wanting to get into the travel industry would be to follow your passion and work hard. For me, those two things are the secret to success.

My advice would be to support both genders equally and take account of the differing needs and lifestyle stages

Can you give me an example of how your company helps increase gender equality?
We don’t recruit roles based on a specific gender. We simply employ those who best fit the role’s criteria. This has led to a 50/50 gender split in senior management. There is a slightly higher female bias in middle management roles but this is representative of the overall staff demographic.

What advice do you have for other companies wanting to improve their own policies/outcomes around gender equality?
My advice would be to support both genders equally and take account of the differing needs and lifestyle stages. 50% of our middle management team now work part time to accommodate family need and other responsibilities.


DSC_1875 EJessica Bain, co-founder and head of trade relations, Latin Routes – finalist, Entrepreneur category

What is your single greatest career achievement to date?
My biggest achievement is definitely setting up my company Latin Routes in 2012 from scratch. Other recent achievements include winning the ‘Best Small Travel Company for South and Central America’ in 2016 at the British Travel Awards and the 2017 LATA award for promotional success.

What advice would you have for other women wanting to get into the travel industry?
It’s a fantastic and dynamic industry to work in and is likely to give a huge amount of job satisfaction over other industries, so I would highly recommend it. I have led lectures at Kingston College Careers Week and also for its Travel and Tourism course to encourage women and young people into the travel industry, so I feel that education and knowing the industry is also very important.

We believe in giving everyone the same opportunities to progress.

Can you give me an example of how your company helps increase gender equality?
Latin Routes makes sure that all its employees have the same access to opportunities for their career progression and ensure that all staff get the same exposure to training and opportunities. We believe in giving everyone the same opportunities to progress.

What advice do you have for other companies wanting to improve their own policies/outcomes around gender equality?
One of the main problems that still exists and has received a lot of press recently is the gender pay gap. I think one of the main things that companies need to do to improve gender equality is to minimize the gender pay gap. It’s also really important for businesses to evaluate their policies on job requirements for senior leadership positions to ensure that they reflect the needs of women and are not preventing them from reaching these positions.

Sam Ballard

Sam Ballard is the publisher of CRUISE ADVISER and has been writing about the cruise industry for a number of years. His CV includes the likes of shipping magazine International Cruise & Ferry Review and the digital publication Cruise News. He can be contacted on:sam@cruise-adviser.com.

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