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Why we have to make the business case for true gender parity

In 2015, United Nations representatives developed the UN’s sustainable development goals, 17 aspirational goals for humanity to achieve by 2030. Among them is goal five – achieving gender parity and empowering women.
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The aim of gender parity in the workplace is to achieve broadly equal outcomes for both genders and to be able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of sex.

For businesses to wake up to the imperative for gender parity we have to make a clear business case. Can gender parity really add to the bottom line?

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The simple answer is yes – more women in leadership is proven to be good for business. A 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report found $12tn could be added to global GDP by 2025 by adding more women to the global workforce. Moreover, companies with a greater gender balance have a 52 per cent higher return on equity and 14 per cent EBIT margins. Those are compelling arguments.

However, although women are gaining opportunities in the workforce, they don’t seem to enjoy the same parity in leadership positions. With 40 per cent of today’s global workforce being female, only five per cent of women are currently occupying CEO positions. To properly influence or better access senior/board level management this needs to change.

In business travel, the stats on gender parity in the industry’s workforce are impressive – 72 per cent of travel agents are women according to a Phocuswright report in 2012. In addition, 71 per cent of buyer members of the Global Business Travel Association is female.

The business travel industry is a clear example of how gender parity can enhance a company’s bottom line. Skift, a travel publication, reports that 47 per cent of women now travel exclusively for business, and according to Maidenvoyage, women are the fastest growing segment of business travelers. Put simply, this increase means travel providers and managers would do well to focus on the demographic in terms of products and services.

Having an equal female voice in key decision roles in business travel companies is a good way to start. Getting ahead of the competition to cater to the needs of women travellers represents a clear business opportunity.

Within the Expedia Group family, which includes its business travel company, Egencia, we like to think we’re ahead of the game in this respect. In the US, the company has committed to the Women at Expedia, Learning & Leading (WELL) initiative in driving gender parity in the workplace. As a part of the initiative, Expedia announced more than half of the workforce worldwide is made up by women, equally paid to men.

Greater gender parity means your business has a broader talent pool, stronger teams, and better solutions for your customers. Importantly, this also means not just focusing on the concept of equal workforce, but also ensuring that women occupy senior level positions in the same or a similar rate as men do.

We’ve not won the battle yet and though business travel is increasingly a trailblazer, there are many industries that still lag behind. The more we can make the business case the closer we will come to true gender parity across the workforce.

Tristan Smith is VP Global Transportation of Egencia

Image: Shutterstock

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