How to create a female-friendly travel policy
With a quarter of all women travellers suffering a negative incident when travelling on business, it is clear that when developing travel policy particular attention must be given to the needs of women travellers. But what do you need to do to develop a female-friendly travel policy? Let’s explore some of the considerations.
While it is important to recognise that women travellers do have specific requirements when it comes to travel, and may face additional risks or problems when travelling, the danger of lumping your travellers into groups based on gender is that this tends to oversimplify policy – you’re in danger of alienating some women who dislike being “patronised” and some men who feel “under-catered” for.
Instead, there needs to be enough room in the policy to address the specific needs of individuals, whether they are women or men.
As with anything else, this begins by understanding potential risks.
There are practical differences in certain parts of the world that will affect women business travellers differently to how they would men. Unfortunately, even in 2017, the simple fact is there are some places in the world where women are less safe, and where different standards (such as dress codes) are expected. This means any policy development must begin with an understanding of the particular risks that individual travellers face in different countries.
If you’re unsure where to start with this, speak with your travel management company (TMC). Your TMC will be able to offer advice about the specific country to which your travellers are visiting. From there, your TMC will be able to direct you to specific travel risk management companies if you deem it necessary.
Information is Power
Once identified, it is important to ensure all travellers understand the risks, cultural norms and expectations, of the location to which they are travelling – and can make an informed choice about that travel.
This makes pre-travel briefings an essential part of business travel. This way, you are both fulfilling your duty of care to staff and helping to make the trip more comfortable and less stressful for travellers.
However, although the risks, advice and cultural expectations may be different for women business travellers in certain locations, these pre-travel briefings shouldn’t be a women-only affair. Good information and choice should be vital ingredients of your travel policy whatever your travellers’ gender.
Organisations are sometimes wary about offering specific training to deal with physical threats, for fear of encouraging a physical confrontation. However, with 79% of women business travellers saying they feel underprepared to deal with such threats, it is something that organisations must think seriously about.
A reputable course with a focus on threat identification and threat avoidance has many benefits. Paired with simple self-defence techniques and country-specific instruction about how to deal with and report an incident, it can help course attendees to feel better prepared and more confident. Confidence is, itself, a powerful deterrent to unwanted attention.
Again, offering these courses is an important element of fulfilling duty of care and, if handled correctly, helping to make trips a less stressful experience for travellers – so offering the option to undertake such a course should be extended to both women and men.
When identifying and managing risk, it may be helpful to assess risk on other metrics rather than male/ female. For example, a lone male traveller may feel just as vulnerable as a lone female traveller in some circumstances.
Looking at risk management policies in the round can benefit everyone. For example, consider:
- Is the rental car office in the terminal with a staffed and well-lit pick-up and drop-off point?
- Do your transfer drivers have photo ID? Have you checked out the reputation of the company?
- Can changes to travel arrangements be communicated to travellers “on the go”?
- Are hotels in a “safe” area with simple transfers and local amenities? What security features are in place e.g. strong door locks? What additional services can they offer lone female travellers?
If you do have lone travellers, whether they be women or men, strengthening your focus on mitigating the risks arising from travel is a vital element of fulfilling duty of care.
In order to understand where else your travel policy can be improved, it may be worthwhile to conduct a travel policy audit. By including specific questions about the concerns and needs of female travellers, you can understand what type of approach will be most suitable within your own organisation.
Again; don’t limit the audit only to female business travellers: being able to make a comparison will offer a greater insight into the success (and failings) of your existing policy. Plus, a wider audit will also give you a better opportunity to collect individual feedback and identify specific requirements.
Adopting an approach that focuses on the individual rather than gender will:
- Deliver better outcomes for all travellers
- Enable a more sustainable approach in the long-term,
- Ensure a more uniform approach to fulfilling duty of care,
- Ultimately, ensure women’s needs will be better met.
By emphasising the need to develop a travel policy that addresses the needs of lone or vulnerable travellers, whether they be men or women, you can avoid becoming mired in the mindset of “female-friendly” – a mindset that is vulnerable to being blown off course by claims that it is “unfair” or “patronising”.
Be aware of the risks, ensure all employees are too, offer solutions to mitigate them, and allow enough room in your policy for individuals to be able to tailor their own travel arrangements so they feel most comfortable and safe.
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