Women in Travel

Alessandra Alonso, 

March 19, 2020

In January 2018, Women in Travel CIC (WITCIC) ran its very first #WomenReturners programme. As a social enterprise dedicated to empowering women through employability and entrepreneurship in travel, tourism and hospitality (TTH), WITCIC works with homeless charity Crisis UK and 5 other travel and tourism partners.


Women returners have been the subject of great discussion recently as they are talented, knowledgeable and potentially active individuals currently lost to the economy. The Government Equalities Office defines a returner as a “person who has left paid employment for at least a year to take on a caring responsibility and would like to return to paid work at a level commensurate with their skills and experience”. This caring responsibility may be for children, elderly or sick relatives. Analysis of the Labour Force Survey shows that 89% of those who are economically inactive because they are caring for family or the home are women.


In the case of WITCIC, the social impact recruitment service has been specifically set up to provide return to work opportunities in TTH to women. These individuals have not only had a ‘career break’, but may have been faced with further challenges, such as sexual trafficking, domestic abuse and seeking refuge, or in the lighter cases those being underrepresented and working below their potential. In most cases this has led to a total loss of confidence and self-esteem and has certainly prevented women from accessing stable employment.


Luckily for many, the charity partners that refer individuals to us help these candidates undertake a journey that eventually leads to physical and mental stability and eventually job-readiness. It is at this point that Women Returners by Women in Travel provides opportunities by identifying, selecting, training and eventually placing these candidates into suitable jobs.


Let’s think about the opportunities offered to women returners in the context of the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality industry:

The TTH sector is thriving, growing and increasingly more important to the UK economy – according to the WTTC, the sector contributes 11% of total (direct and indirect) GDP to the UK economy.

Talent shortage is notorious and certainly forecasted to become worse in the aftermath of Brexit as employers will no longer be able to rely on a steady stream of foreign workers.

Diversity and social inclusion are becoming a key factor in differentiating companies from their competitors, building consumer loyalty and fostering greater innovation.

Therefore, creatively turning invisible and unengaged pools of female talent into an available and actively contributing talent force is an absolute must.


After 2 years of running the service, with women now employed in aviation services, 5-star hotels, boutique independent hotels and brasseries, we know that it can work and can not only change lives, but also provide a valuable source of talent to the industry.


Not only did women feel better equipped, more confident and job ready by the end of the training process, but it also opened their minds to new roles and opportunities in the TTH sector, what the sector is about, and what they can expect from various employers.

“I went to every interview to gain experience and explain to them face-to-face more about myself and what I am looking for. Get me, I wouldn’t have done that a few months ago.”

From the viewpoint of employers, those engaged in the service have found that the chance to spend some time mixing with a group of candidates provides great insights and a real opportunity to appreciate diverse backgrounds. They have also been surprised by the quality and experience of the candidates.


One employer told us: “we were truly inspired by the women that we met on your programme, at their strength and positivity and at the thorough, relevant answers they gave to our questions.”


These women are often educated, have plenty of previous experiences and are multilingual. One other employer commented: “it was lovely to meet the ladies and be involved in their proposed return to work. I have great admiration in all they have achieved so far and their positive attitude in returning to the workplace.”


I can also say that the women are always truly touched by the humanity and authenticity of those who attend as employers, and suddenly can see a brighter horizon ahead.


By accessing this pool of female talent, employers can transform lives and solve some of their recruitment pains. Even better, they can genuinely express their commitment to social sustainability; they can open dialogue with their stake holding communities and increase employee engagement by demonstrating they are employers worth working for.


A recent Gallup study concluded that companies with higher than average employee engagement also have 27% higher profits, 50% higher sales and 50% higher customer loyalty – it’s a win-win! So, please ensure you consider marginalised women returning to work when you are looking to fill some of your future positions.

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