Scottish tourism in gender equality row over claims women sidelined

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Scottish tourism is embroiled in a gender equality row over claims women have been sidelined from the key summit staged during the annual celebration of the industry.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) is under fire for failing to book enough female speakers – four years after a campaign was set up to tackle “imbalance” across the sector.

A tourism body is under fire for failing to book enough female speakers ' four years after a campaign was set up to tackle 'imbalance' across the sector. Picture: Creative Commons/Pstevens88

A tourism body is under fire for failing to book enough female speakers ' four years after a campaign was set up to tackle 'imbalance' across the sector. Picture: Creative Commons/Pstevens88

The Women in Tourism (WIT) group is furious just four of the 15 keynote speakers at today’s “Signature Sessions” at the SECC in Glasgow are women.

One of those is Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government minister responsible for the industry, while another is Cat Leaver, director of the Scottish Government’s Brand Scotland global marketing campaign.

Women in Tourism has raised concerns that three of the male keynote speakers at today’s event are drawn from companies or organisations that are patrons of the STA, the biggest independent body representing the industry.

The campaign has previously published research revealing almost half of women in the industry say they have experienced “barriers to progression”. One of the biggest factors cited was “men dominating at a senior level”. Nearly half of the women surveyed felt there was faster progression for men in the industry.

The STA has pointing out that most of its staff are women and insisted WIT could have organised its own Scottish Tourism Month event.

In a letter to STA chief executive Marc Crothall, WIT chair Susan Russell said: “It’s frustrating to recognise that in four years, as an industry, we are still not reflecting our sector on stage.

“As you know, 60 per cent of those working in tourism and hospitality are female and it’s a small ask to ensure we fully represent those working within it within any national event.

“Until those leading and working within our industry recognise and proactively address the issues being faced, we will only make incremental steps towards a positive resolution. We must empower women within the industry to be ambitious and reach their full potential. Ensuring a balanced agenda is a small step towards this.”

However, Mr Crothall said he was “disappointed” the Signature Sessions conference had been singled out for criticism when ten women were among the 25 speakers at another STA event in Glasgow this week.

He said: “Six out of seven members of the STA team are women. It is those women who have played an integral part in building and shaping our conference programme. We invited other women to take part, but they were unavailable. “There isn’t a Women in Tourism event happening this month, which I’d say is a missed opportunity.”