Phocuswright panel discusses challenges women leaders face

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Atendees at Phocuswright's Women's Leadership Initiative. Photo Credit: Michelle McSwain Photography

LOS ANGELES -- Addressing the gender gap in travel technology, Phocuswright hosted its inaugural Women's Leadership Initiative during the Phocuswright Conference. 

According to Phocuswright, just one in 10 individuals in senior leadership roles in travel technology are female. 

The session featured a panel of four women in leadership roles for travel companies, including Dorothy Dowling, Best Western's senior vice president and chief marketing officer; Erika Moore, Travelport's vice president and general manager for U.S. sales; Eva Jenner, vice president of sales for Holland America Line and Seabourn; and Siew Hoon Yeoh, founder of media company Web In Travel and editorial director of Northstar Travel Media Asia. The panel was moderated by Mary Pat Sullivan, founder of Sullivan Marketing Associates.

The panelists tackled topics ranging from the importance of having strong role models to the challenges of having to override societal norms. 

"One thing that is a problem when it comes to bringing up girls and boys is that boys are taught to be courageous, to just try anything, to just go for it," said Moore. "Women, as girls, are trained to be poised and composed and perfect. And we have to let women know they can go out and try, and if they fail, then try again."

Much of the discussion centered on the value of having formal mentorship and leadership programs in place to support female employees. A Phocuswright survey indicated that 27% of travel technology companies have a formal mentorship program available.

"I tell people that [becoming a woman in leadership] is a really hard journey," said Dowling. "And if you don't have people to support you along the way, it's going to be tough to pass through that journey. All women need someone to look up to in their life, so they have someone to follow."

Sullivan touted the early morning session's high attendance as indication that demand is high for women's leadership. 

"This isn't just for today," said Sullivan. "We hope this will be a long-term tradition, and I think the ladies on this panel would love to see that happen. We need diversity of thought, and there is a clear business case for diversity. This isn't about being nice to women. It's about strengthening your business and having women on top helps to strengthen a business."

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