Female business owners in the travel industry often started their companies as a way to supplement the household income. My contemporaries today may disagree with this last statement, but if you talk to women in the travel industry, as I have many times over the years, the same grassroots story plays itself out over and over again. However, it is quite important to note that many of these same women successfully grew their business to a point where they became and are still the main breadwinner in the household.
It’s estimated that 33 percent of all travel companies are owned by women and approximately 70 percent of employees in the travel business, as a whole, are women. That leaves 67 percent of businesses owned by men, yet only 30 percent of the workforce are male. Proportionately, men in the travel business are in leadership positions as the CEO, COO, director of sales or finance director. The majority of women in the travel industry are employed as travel agents, reservationists, tour guides, sales representatives, customer service representatives or other operational support roles.
It’s a Balancing Act
As a woman, balancing work and home life continues to be a challenge. Today’s woman, while accomplished in so very many ways, traditionally remains the hearth of the home. Balancing the needs of a business and family means women often take less care of themselves than those with whom they feel responsible.
As a businesswoman in tourism, which is often a 24/7 world, female business owners or those in leadership positions tend to focus their attention on the need at hand, whether real or perceived. For example, women tend to answer emails from clients during non-business hours, perhaps while cooking dinner or helping a child with homework. As a result, women often feel compromised in tending to the needs of their business or family, and feel guilty as a result. Figuring out a healthy work/life balance is key to the overall success of a female business owner. This is not an easy task.
How Does One Find Balance?
As women, we need to realize that taking care of ourselves will lead to a more successful business, balanced family life and most importantly, our own mental health. Several years ago I participated in a 360 review. For those who are unfamiliar with 360 reviews, your peers and staff are asked to “review” you in three areas: What should you continue to do? What should you stop doing? What should you start doing? A real eye opener for me was a peer who stated that operating at the level I did, 365/24/7, was daunting to others. This insight came from a female peer who didn’t feel anyone else could achieve that level of energy – and it made others feel guilty. Interestingly, I was exhausted trying to be that person, and I had no idea how it was affecting my staff much less how it affected my family.
Building the Right Team
Women often feel that in order to prove themselves, or prove it to themselves, they must do everything. Every call, every situation and every obligation (often imagined) must rest on their shoulders. Redirecting thoughts and becoming more aware of how this affects those around one is the first step on the path to success. No one can do it alone, and building the right team, then trusting that team, allows women business owners and leaders to focus on growing their business while staying mentally and physically healthy. It takes time to build a team, just as it does to successfully raise children or manage a healthy relationship. And along the way there will be bumps, but that is okay. I cannot think of one successful business owner or leader who has not made mistakes along the way.
Can Women Business Owners and Leaders Overcome Challenges?
Female business owners and leaders can overcome the challenge of balancing work and home. By focusing on themselves and actually sitting down and creating a growth plan for their business while considering the impact on themselves or their family, women can successfully balance both. Part of the process includes giving up the idea that in order to prove yourself one must be everything to everyone. Not only is the latter a very bad business practice, it leads to absolute exhaustion and ultimately failure. Like a sugar rush, a behavior pattern such as this has a very limited run.
About the author: Lisa S. Curtin consults to the tourism community and is a contributing author to Premier Travel Media. Following 20-plus years of experience in the tourism community as the vice president of operations for a leading tour company, Lisa now works as the chief operations officer of Caldwell & Companies, a Washington, DC-based Certified Public Accounting firm. Lisa has learned to balanced work and home and it’s been a life-changing experience.