March 8 marks International Women's Day, a day which is observed annually to commemorate the progress made in the area of gender equality, and to reflect on the necessary changes and challenges required going forward. This year's International Women's Day theme is Balance for Better: when women and female-identifying people are empowered, we all benefit. All this week, the G Adventures blog will be looking at the ways travel impacts women — and vice versa. Today, we've excerpted interviews from our Planet Her project, which features G Adventures staff discussing empowerment, leadership, and being a woman in the travel industry.

Lauren Michell, VP, Marketing and Customer Experience

CANADA

Q: How can travel be a force for good for women?

A: One of the things I love most about working with G Adventures is our commitment to changing people’s lives through travel.

Travel and tourism, has the ability to empower women around the world and to help bridge the divide in the labour force, lending women a powerful voice and the means to make their own choices and decisions. That said, women are significantly underrepresented in ownership and leadership positions across the travel and tourism industry, leading to a notable imbalance between their buying power and their economic empowerment.

If we can create more employment opportunities for more women in the tourism supply chain and grow small women-owned and -led businesses within these communities, travel can help to balance this power and become a driving force for women. And for everyone.

Q: If you could implement one change that would affect women in your country, what would it be?

A: Violence against girls and women is, I would argue, one of the most important issues facing women – and our society at large. And it’s directly linked to women’s empowerment, which is essential for our economy and our community to thrive. Driving a gender-balanced world requires collective action and shared responsibility. It’s about joining forces to find a way to eradicate this issue, once and for all.

Q: What does being a female leader mean to you?

Throughout my career, there have been times when I’ve felt excluded. When I haven’t felt comfortable voicing my perspectives and experiences with others, regardless of gender.

For me, then, being a woman in a leadership position comes with opportunity — and responsibility. It means that I have the opportunity to do my part to ensure that the playing field is as balanced as possible. And I have the responsibility to create a supportive and inclusive space that encourages participation and helps to empower others. It’s about bringing people in and building them up. Because we really all are better when we work together.


Kelly Galaski, Director of Global Programs, Planeterra Foundation

CANADA

Q: How can travel be a force for good for women?

A: Travel is empowering for women in different senses of the word. Travelling as a woman, especially independently, helps build confidence for so many future situations, I highly recommend it!! Travel as a sector, in countries where women have traditionally been excluded from education or the formal economy, can be a major force for good — for empowerment, independence, and confidence. It can be the way to open doors for women and push their boundaries.

Q: If you could implement one change that would impact women's lives in your country, what would it be?

A: I feel quite lucky to be a citizen of Canada. That said, safety for women, particularly Indigenous and women of colour, still lags behind. So a change I would like to see would be a reduction in crimes against women and the value of all women increased.

Q: What does being a female leader mean to you?

A: Being a female leader means to me, never comprising on integrity and quality of work, while at the same time being empathetic and working on emotional intelligence. Being strong and confident while having a win-win approach toward relationships is important, and I'm not sure it's different for male leaders, but certainly women do have to strike a balance between strength and empathy. But the trend toward more emotionally intelligent leaders is quite strong already, so I feel this is the right direction to strive towards.


Evie Ndhlovu, Community Development Specialist,

ZIMBABWE

Q: What does women’s empowerment mean for you?

A: It means that women can now benefit from what they have been doing all along. We have found our voices and come out of the shells of silence. Women can now stand up for ourselves and each other as we can now share stories and experiences.

Q: How can travel be a force for good for women?

A: Women can now move their vast skills and talents from the homestead to the industry. Now women can use the skills that for so long were overlooked and make an income out of them. Women in my culture were always hosts in the home, and now in tourism they can transfer those skills into an industry that is authentic and financially stable.

Q: If you could implement one change that would impact women´s lives in your country, what would it be?

A: I would implement a lower tax bracket for women-run businesses. This is because a majority of the formal businesses in Zimbabwe are run by men, whereas the most income-generating businesses are informal and women-run. Independent women are the backbone of the country and they need to be provided with incentives to improve their businesses.

Q: What does being a female leader mean to you?

A: It means that I am paving a path for a society that is still in construction. It means that I have to spend my lifetime working hard to ensure that women coming after me are able to live in a world where there is equality. I wish to bring women together. All women. To share ideas, experiences, and support in all aspects of life.


Andrea Hermans, CEO (Chief Experience Officer)

THE NETHERLANDS

Q: What does women’s empowerment mean for you?

A: I think everyone should be treated equally. Women aren’t better than men and men aren’t better than women. We all have our individual strengths. We shouldn’t look at gender so much, but look at the individual.

Q: How can travel be a force for good for women?

A: When you’re travelling you open up your mind. You meet people from all ages, all cultures and all kinds of backgrounds. They all see the world in a different way. Women but also men, can learn a lot from all the people they meet. You become a lot more tolerant. Travelling also comes with challenges, but they’ll only make you stronger and it will help you tackle challenges in any situation you’ll encounter in the future. Through travelling I definitely discovered just how strong I am and that I can deal with much more than I thought I was capable of.

Q: If you could implement one change that would impact women's lives in your country, what would it be?

A: I would love to change the people’s mentality. Girls should be encouraged to do the things they want to do from an early age so they grow up and feel encouraged to make their own decisions, to lead and take on challenges that pop up along the way.

Q: What does being a female leader mean to you?

A: Showing to others that women can achieve the same things men can.

Want to hear more interviews from our Planet Her project? Click here.