By Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Travel Group South Africa GM: Product and Marketing
Sorry Gents. Walk into any Flight Centre store in South Africa, and you’re the exception, not the rule. We love you of course, but 74% of Flight Centre’s 1,000-odd staff members are women and proud that they’ve chosen to pursue a career in travel. Ladies turns out you can have it all.
At Flight Centre, women have their fair share of seats at the management table. Our Executive Team comprises 50% women and as much as 70% of our Senior Leadership Team. Few companies can claim to put women at the forefront to the extent that Flight Centre has, which is why we are consistently voted as one of the best companies in the country to work for by Deloitte.
Flight Centre’s female-heavy workforce is in line with the industry average. According to the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA), 73% of employees in South Africa’s travel industry are women, and 45% black females.
So important is our focus on diversity and equality, that we have created a 30% black women employee shareholder ownership trust for staff, which has distributed hundreds of thousands of rands in profit share to the deserving employees who are part of this scheme.
Unlike our counterparts overseas, we’ve been focusing on uplifting the role of women in our workplace for many years. I’m proud to say that South Africa leads the way in the Flight Centre Group globally when it comes to female representation at a leadership level.
I also like to think that Flight Centre offers a very agile environment for its staff in general. We recognise the importance of family commitments. And, as the demands of the business have changed, we’ve evolved with them, introducing a range of staff-focused initiatives.
One of these is the introduction of Flight Centre Associates, a brand where we offer fully flexible work practices, including the ability to work from home, be your boss, decide on your hours, and take your business into your own hands.
We are also launching Women Wise, giving women an opportunity to meet with other high-powered females. This initiative will include female staff, but also women outside of the business so we can share insights and mentor each other to greater heights.
One thing we have in common as women in travel is passion. I stand by the mantra: “If you want to succeed in this industry, you have to love the travel industry and what you do.”
Besides loving the industry, I think it’s important for aspiring female leaders in travel to surround themselves with people who know more than they do. Very often people are intimidated by others who know more, whereas I see it as a great way to learn and grow.
And, as we celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa this month, I would like to tell women not to be afraid of the glass ceiling. I’m not a huge believer in the glass ceiling, and I think success comes down to the individual more than anything else.
So, in the words of activist and author, Sheryl Sandberg: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”
All aboard Ladies!