The Scope of Business Travel Threats for Women
Business travelers face a range of unique uncertainties. Female travelers face risks that are well beyond common travel threats . While the number of women who actively travel for business has risen in recent years, the latest research shows that corporations have been slow to modify their corporate travel policies for this increase. Women account for nearly 40 percent of business travelers based in the U.S., according to new research from the Global Business Travel Association and WWStay polling travel managers and buyers.
Dangers like transportation accidents, natural disasters and terrorism are well-known threats for all travelers. Female travelers, however, face more prevalent threats of sexual assault, theft and harassment than their male counterparts.
The gender-specific travel hazards that women face have complex cultural and societal underpinnings — many of which are difficult to unravel. This status quo doesn’t mean, however, that enterprises are off the hook when it comes to making positive changes.
Women’s Travel Safety by The Numbers
An online survey by AIG Travel and GBTA found that 83 percent of women had experienced travel safety challenges in the previous year, and the overwhelming majority noted that these issues hampered their professional productivity. Corporate travel purchasers also agreed — 70 percent said that the gender-specific dangers of travel were worse than they were just three to five years earlier.
Unfortunately, recognition doesn’t always translate to action. Less than one-fifth of corporate travel policies actually devote specific attention to women’s safety issues. Further compounding their safety, more than one-third of travel managers said that they did not know how long it would take to locate them in the event of an emergency.
How Can Companies Improve the Outlook?
Businesses can do a lot to reshape their travel practices and keep vulnerable staff members safer wherever they happen to be. For instance, 84 percent of U.S. women reported that their companies did not provide female-oriented travel safety resources or tips. Clearly, there’s room for improvement. How should they address this through their travel policy and pre-trip authorization process?
Companies don’t have to overhaul their operating standards completely to make travel safer for their female travelers. Good ways to get started include
- Briefing women on the kinds of cultural, behavioral, apparel and religious differences and restrictions they might face in certain countries
- Providing apps and other tools for connecting with travel resources, such as the U.S. Department of State, local embassies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and telemedicine providers
- Finding lodgings that include extra safety features, such as 24-hour security, double door locks, well-lit public spaces and limited ground-floor access
- Providing better transportation services than standard taxis and airport transfers, which are known to present women with high-risk circumstances
- Maintaining 24-hour traveler’s assistance hotlines
- Employing technologies which allow travel managers to know where their travelers are in the world and how to easily reach them
- Receive alerts on dangerous political developments/events and terror threats, extreme weather, etc.
Companies have the legal and moral responsibility to ensure that their traveling employees remain safe. Creating a travel risk management program that specifically addresses the needs of diverse employees is a critical step in fulfilling your corporate obligations.
What happens when enterprises fail to get with the program by supporting their forward-thinking work forces with better travel programs and protections? In addition to potentially finding themselves embroiled in tragedies, these businesses may earn reputations as employers who don’t care about their female workers. Such an outcome could make it extremely difficult to access talented labor pools and retain key players.
Although this situation may seem dire, there’s good news — Women aren’t letting hazards stop them from seeking high-flying careers in domains traditionally left to males, and the number who travel for business is on the rise. As this trend becomes the norm, companies that institute superior travel risk management programs are more likely to thrive.