Seven in 10 (71 per cent) female business travellers say travelling for work as a woman is less safe than travelling as a man, according to a survey conducted by Opinium on behalf of WTP.
The survey, which sampled 2,000 business travellers based in Australia, Canada, the US and the UK, also found that female travellers were more likely to take measures to ‘protect their safety’ during business travel than men. Almost a third (31 per cent) said that they did not go out on their own at night, compared with 18 per cent of men, while almost half (46 per cent) consistently kept family and friends informed of their whereabouts, compared with 36 per cent of men.
Almost a fifth (19 per cent) of female business travellers also felt that their organisation should ‘act with women’s safety in mind’ when they are travelling alone – for example, ensuring that flights do not arrive late at night.
Over one in three (36 per cent) said that they do not like travelling to countries where women’s rights aren’t protected, compared with only 15 per cent of men.
One in five female business travellers (21 per cent) also said they preferred to stay in hotels that make provision for solo women travellers, while a similar proportion (19 per cent) wear a wedding ring – real or fake – to avoid unwanted attention.
Negative experiences are not uncommon
Almost a sixth (12 per cent) of female business travellers have unfortunately experienced a negative incident, ranging from minor theft to assault when travelling, and one in 10 have been unwell with a women’s health problem while travelling but felt unable to get help because of the stigma around women’s health issues.
“It’s important to note that, compared with men, women often have different safety considerations to think about when travelling for work,” said Kate Fitzpatrick, Regional Security Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at WTP. “The risk will generally increase in countries with less equality. It’s essential, therefore, that women have a full understanding of the cultural norms in their destinations from what to wear to how they act, for example, perhaps avoiding alcohol in public. We often undertake specific risk assessments for women business travellers to make sure their safety and security is the highest priority.”
Fitzpatrick added: “As well as safety considerations, women business travellers may face gender bias in some cultures where it’s not the norm to have women in senior roles. I’ve personally experienced sexism and push-back because of my gender. People are surprised to meet a woman Director of Security, and whether it is a police chief in South America or a site risk inspection in West Africa, I regularly have to detail my past work in security and government law enforcement to give me credibility, something which my [male] colleagues never have to do.”
WTP also appointed a new Business Development Director for the EMEA region in January.