International Women’s Day: wise step forward in addressing gender equality

Established in 2015, Womenwise is Flight Centre Travel Group’s (FCTG) effort to inspire women across the company to develop their leadership potential, and it comes with numerous women-led events that are committed to the agenda.

In 2018, FCTG became a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). Its own Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addresses 12 of the 17 SDGs set out by the United Nations, including Gender Equality.

Wong: FCM Asia staff have greatly benefitted from the opportunity to ask FCTG female leaders questions and learn from them

“Initiatives such as Womenwise play a critical role in ensuring we remain accountable to achieving this,” remarked Anna Wong, HR director for Asia with FCM, the flagship business travel division of FCTG.

“Key to the momentum our Womenwise movement is gaining has been the creation of an accessible platform for all of our women across brands or support roles to engage with,” Wong told TTG Asia.

Prior to the pandemic, FCTG organised annual events that enabled thousands of women to take their place on the leadership pathway. One highlight was the Womenwise annual incentive, an internal one-day all-expenses paid programme that saw the company fly in and accommodate attendees in the host city. It was a coveted event that drew more than 1,000 applicants every year.

The Womenwise Leadership Summit was another valued event, where FCTG’s senior female leaders shared tried and tested methods harnessed to develop the company’s own leaders.

Womenwise expanded into Asia in 2019, and today there are Womenwise chapters in Australia, Asia, India, the Americas and Africa. These chapters ran customer events, blending business networking with opportunities for attendees to share vulnerable stories and form authentic connections.

Wong said: “Just as Womenwise has played a big role in leadership development at FCTG, Womenwise customer events enable us to take all we have learnt and gathered over the years, and start to rally behind the women we work with across organisations.”

Initiatives differ across region. In Asia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and China have their own chapter that drives local initiatives and activities.

“Despite the ongoing pandemic, in 2021, the local chapters organised fundraising activities and were able to raise A$13,157 (US$9,646) for Solar Buddy, a FCTG-supported charity dedicated to illuminating the future of those living in energy poverty,” shared Wong, adding that the usual quarterly regional workshops were able to continue online.

“During these workshops, our people were able to hear and learn from inspirational women leaders within the FCTG family. Senior female leaders such as Melanie Waters-Ryan, CEO for leisure at FCTG and Suyin Lee, managing director of Discova shared their stories – how they have raised a family, navigated major businesses changes, and defined their own unique leadership styles within multiple roles at FCTG.

“Our FCM Asia staff have greatly benefitted from the opportunity to ask questions, interact and learn,” she said.

When asked to detail successes FCM has achieved through Womenwise Asia’s goals, Wong said: “Asia has made good progress in creating gender parity and ensuring there is representation of women in leadership teams over the last two years. Thirty per cent of our regional senior management team are women and within the local markets, females make up 40 per cent or more of the local management team.

“Under the company’s Brightness of Future philosophy, we have proactively discussed career development with all staff. In the last two years, 70 per cent of role changes were female staff, with 20 per cent going into leadership roles. Female staff on maternity leave have all returned to work after their leave, and retention is high (90 per cent and up) in this group as their leaders proactively support them to balance their commitments at work and at home.”

The Brightness of Future philosophy states that people have the right to belong to a team that will provide them with a supportive working community, and the right to a clear career pathway. Promotion and transfers from within reign as the first choice.

According to Wong, Womenwise Asia’s goals for FCM are: Celebrating the success and contributions of our female staff; Introducing flexibility to FCM Asia offices; and Providing initiatives to encourage women in leadership.

“We are constantly making conscious efforts to drive this transformation in female leadership parity. It is important to recognise the influence and contribution of FCM’s women who are passionately contributing to the workplace and ensure they have equal and fair opportunities in leadership development,” she added.

Following the launch of FCTG’s renewed Diversity & Inclusion programme Come As You Are in mid-2021, Womenwise now comes under the Gender Equality pillar, one of six pillars to the programme. The other pillars are LGBTQI+, Mental Health, Accessibility, Age, and Heritage/Race/Religion.

This story is part of an International Women’s Day series published by TTG Asia, TTGmice and TTGassociations, where we highlight organisations in our industry that are committed to supporting gender parity in the workplace and beyond as well as uplifting the quality of life for womenfolk in the communities they interact with through their operations.

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