Travel firm might take lead in breaking the ‘glass ceiling’, but promotion is based solely on merit rather than hitting quotas, boss Deborah Beckett tells TIM GAVELL
Considerable efforts have been made over the past few years to encourage big companies to increase the number of women on their boards.
The recent Cranfield Female FTSE Board Report for 2013 showed that, although the female representation was increasing, up by 19.6 per cent on the previous year, there was still some way to go before the so-called ‘glass ceiling’ for women in big business is truly shattered.
But one Lancashire company has never had such an inequality problem – in fact, its board has a 60 per cent female majority, and it is nothing to do with tokenism or a so-called PC approach, just good business sense.
Specialist educational travel firm, Next Generation Travel, which owns WST Travel and FHT Group Travel, based in Bristol Avenue, Blackpool, has pointed out the comparative board level gender inequality in FTSE 100 travel firms, compared to its own 60 per cent female board majority.
According to figures published in the Cranfield Female FTSE board report, Compass Group has an 11 per cent female board presence, while Carnival, easyJet and TUI Travel reported 20 per cent.
Intercontinental Hotels achieved the highest female boardroom ratio in the sector, at 31 per cent.
Next Generation Travel managing director Deborah Beckett said: “The progress of FTSE 100 companies to correct gender inequality at board level is encouraging, yet the travel sector still has a long way to go to show that there is a level playing field in the boardroom.
“At Next Generation Travel, we promote on merit and support employees to reach their full potential, regardless of gender.
“By having a balanced workforce at every level, our customers benefit from a diverse mix of perspectives and experience.”
Next Generation Travel has rapidly expanded its team by choosing employees with the highest levels of specialist travel experience. As a result, the 35-strong workforce has more than 350 years’ combined industry experience.
Next Generation Travel chairman David Craven said: “Next Generation Travel was founded in December 2010, by some of my former team members from NST, which was sold in 2007 for around £47m.
“We were the market leader at the time.
“The company that bought it changed the business model and values.
“I was approached by members of my old team three years later, who wanted to start their own travel company using the old business model.
“It launched and expanded rapidly. Our turnover was £600,000 in 2011, and soon we should break the £10m mark.
“Why are there so many women on the board?
“It is hard to say, but the travel industry attracts a higher proportion of female staff.
“It is nothing to do with tokenism or because we are being PC, we promote on merit, but also it could be because we do not have an aggressive approach focussed on money first.
“We structure the business around the customers.
“Don’t get me wrong, the business was created to make money, but sometimes companies lose sight of what they were set up to do.
“The most important things we look at in board meetings are staff morale and motivation and customer feedback, then financial issues.”