The fight for gender equality is for everyone, and necessary for economies and communities to thrive. With this in mind, International Women’s Day 2020 galvanises all women to work towards an equal world. In support of this campaign, TTG Asia and TTGmice are featuring women leaders in the travel, tourism and business events industry this week. Today, we speak to Ritu Mehrotra who tells us about Booking.com’s initiatives to push for gender diversity in the travel technology sector and how the tourism industry can play a critical role in improving the lives of women.
What is the one narrative you’d love to change about women in the travel and tourism industry workforce, and why?
Currently, the travel and tourism industry is developing rapidly through innovations in technology. And while technology is one of the key drivers of social change and economic growth today, the strong under-representation of women studying STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) subjects and participating in the tech workforce threatens to deepen the current social divide and further accentuate gender stereotypes.
I would definitely like to see an increase in women pursuing their goals of excelling in STEM fields. I truly believe it is important to encourage and empower more young women to pursue and advance their tech education and start a tech career.
Are you able to change that narrative at Booking.com? How?
The visibility of female role models across businesses is important, and this belief is reflected in our company’s internal programmes, and wider initiatives that focus on female mentorship and celebrating women who are transforming and disrupting the world of tech.
I’m very proud that at Booking.com, we have more than 17,500 employees across the globe, representing over 140 nationalities. Our global workforce is comprised of more than 50 per cent women, with women representing 20 per cent of those in technical roles, while one-third of our leadership team is made up of women.
Fostering such diversity is key to the decisions we make every day in building the best possible product and experience for our customers. As a company powered by technology and digital innovation, Booking.com believes strongly in ensuring equal access and opportunity for all within the technology sector.
Recognising that female participation in technology is lower than it should be, we are committed to bolstering female tech talent, eliminating obstacles and challenges they face, and fostering diversity.
Through our “Women in Tech” initiatives, we aim to provide a better understanding of the continuing gender diversity challenge in the tech sector. For example, we have been hosting the Booking.com Technology Playmaker Awards for three years now. The awards recognise and celebrate women who are transforming businesses, industries, and communities through technology and inspiring the next generation of female tech leaders.
What community cause are you most passionate about that you can use your professional skills or position to support?
I am really passionate about the Booking Booster programme, where I was one of the mentors last year.
The Booking Booster programme provides grants to startups, social enterprises, non-profit organisations and sustainable accommodations from all over the world to support solutions in sustainable travel.
Designed to support accommodation partners as they strive to overcome roadblocks to make their properties and operations more sustainable, the Booking Booster consists of complementary 10-day programmes exclusively focused on sustainable accommodation.
The sessions consist of a series of hands-on workshops and tailored mentoring sessions to help the participants scale their impact. Participants are paired with mentors from Booking.com to provide guidance and support on specific topics.
Travel and tourism are known to improve the quality of life for communities in tourism destinations. Can travel and tourism specifically help to improve the lives of women? How?
We believe that the travel industry must continue to encourage diversity in technology, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because businesses ultimately benefit from a diverse workforce.
The tourism industry also has much scope to improve women’s lives through a plethora of career growth opportunities it offers in the technology sector. Technologies such as Artificial intelligence, and specifically, machine learning, will play a transformative role in the future of travel, so it’s an area where we will continue to invest.
Helping drive gender diversity in technology is as much about finding the untapped talent as it is about supporting women who have already built the skills, knowledge and expertise in our sector.