Female business travellers are no different to male colleagues; we all want to get on with our jobs, explore new places and travel home safely.
However, with 25% of women experiencing a negative incident (ranging from theft to assault) when travelling, the specific risks to female business travellers can’t be ignored.
Preparing female employees in advance of travel
Some travel managers feel uncomfortable when talking with female colleagues about travel safety. They recognise that there’s often a fine line between supporting female colleagues (by offering guidance on specific safety threats) and leaving them feeling patronised.
One way to solve this is by providing comprehensive safety and risk advice to all employees, regardless of the specific risks they might face when travelling. This approach would also mean informing male colleagues about the dangers that only apply to female colleagues.
Provide country-specific guidance information
Depending on the region female travellers are going to, there might be cultural restrictions for women travellers.
Dress code is an obvious example. In many Muslim countries, there are usually strict guidelines for female clothing. A conservative, respectful approach to dress is therefore advisable. Even if travellers don’t agree with local customs, adopting local dress while abroad can be essential for safety reasons.
Men are just as sensitive to culture shock as women. But there are some values, customs and social behaviour towards women that may leave female travellers feeling particularly vulnerable or frustrated. In particular, countries where women do not usually go outside without a male relative or where women are expected to cover their hair. Give full consideration to the cultural background of any foreign destination and share guidance with female travellers.
Pay equal attention to national travel when assessing risks
Domestic travel can lead to a false sense of familiarity and security. While the culture and customs might be familiar, there are still specific risks that female travellers can face in their own country, especially when they are travelling alone.
Top safety tips to share with female business travellers
Share these tips with your travellers to help them stay safe:
Share your itinerary with someone back in the office, so they know where you’ll be. Check in with them during your trip, to let them know you’re safe, and update them if your itinerary changes.
Have important phone numbers and your accommodation address written down, so that if your phone is stolen or runs out of battery you can find your way back to where you’re staying.
Don’t keep all your money in one place. Leave some back in your accommodation.
In some countries, wearing a fake wedding ring can help you avoid unwanted attention.
Keep two hotel keys, one on your person and one in your bag. If your bag gets stolen or you get pickpocketed, you’ll have a spare to still get into your room.
Don’t prevent female business travellers, enable them
Given the specific risks that female travellers can face, some businesses may be inclined to limit their travel opportunities or even prevent them from travelling altogether. This might account for why 77% of female business travellers say their organisations should take better notice of their gender needs.
But, women shouldn’t struggle to land professional opportunities that involve travel, simply because their supervisors don’t want to deal with the inherent risk or pay extra for a safer hotel. Such an approach is limiting for both female travellers and the business as a whole.