A study by PWC on “Women in Hospitality, Travel, and Leisure 2020”, show women in the UK holding senior management positions make up of 25 percent in the travel sector and hotel sector. Additionally, according to IATA, the proportion of women holding CEO roles in aviation is 3 percent. The women holding a senior position, often face work and personal challenges to maintain performance. Here are women, sharing their problems when holding a high powered position, in the tourism and hospitality industry.

“They were looking for a male figure”

“There have been times that I have been asked by clients to speak to the person in charge. They were looking for a male figure, but having a supportive team and managers as well as being prepared and knowledgeable can quickly change their outlook on you. Having support when you are up against difficult situations is instrumental. I believe that if you are confident and passionate, people will respect you for your knowledge.

Ashleigh Bowers Narcelles, Area Manager Business Travel Sales, Omni Hotels and Resorts

“Women are seen as more caring”

In education, an interesting trend is that women are often routed towards more student-facing roles, as they are traditionally seen as more caring. While I love working with students personally, this sometimes limits other initiatives I could get involved in. However, rather than letting that get me down, I used that opportunity to accrue as much teaching experience as possible as a postdoc, and to build relationships with wonderful mentors. I have no doubt that having to push myself at that time, helped me advance faster in my career.

Dr. Lynn Minnaert, Academic Chair and Clinical Associate Professor, Jonathan M. Tisch for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University

“Knowing which brand, city, and role to choose”

“Hotel sales is a heavily female-dominated environment in my experience, which is hugely empowering. I feel fortunate to have minimal challenges with being a female director. The challenge within this industry is knowing which brand, city, and role to choose. I realize the opportunity for growth and for travel are in working for larger hotel companies with multiple brands.

Janelle Zanoni, Area Director of Group Sales, Marriott International New York

“Being a person of color”

“I didn’t think this would still be the case today, but it’s still a challenge in some ways to be a female journalist, and in some ways, to also be a person of color. I honestly wish I could say that I haven’t faced discrimination throughout my career as a journalist, but I have. It’s not easy. Sometimes, it’s more apparent and blatant. And at other times, it’s more subtle. Often, it’s those times when you’re silenced, or you’re not given the same opportunities as other reporters, even when you’re just as qualified, if not more. Or you’re doubted in some way, or not seen as authoritative, as men are. I think if you have a real passion for journalism–for telling stories that matter–and you’re smart about navigating whatever obstacles that come your way, it’s a truly worthwhile and fulfilling career to pursue.”

Deanna Ting, Hospitality Editor, Skift

“Female founders just wants to be treated with the same respect and dignity”

“There are a lot of conversations about raising money from institutional investors aka venture capitalists. Only 2% of women are funded by these investors. It is tough to raise money when you’re a woman. The biggest challenge is being respected the same level as men. Female founders just wants to be treated with the same respect and dignity, which can be undercut by microaggressions and inappropriate male-dominated business practices. I went through a period where I tried to be something I’m not. I acted more masculine and wore boxy suits. It took a while to accept my femininity and womanhood. I believe, the more women focus on their confidence and living their most authentic selves, the better the world for us to thrive in.”

Allison Monaghan McGuire, Founder, Walc Inc and Monaghan McGuire Consulting

“Being outnumbered”

“The largest challenge women face is being outnumbered, which changes the dynamic in the room. Therefore, you’re not yourself, and you adapt to the majority culture of the industry or room. This is true of all areas where there is a majority culture, which is why I’m a strong believer in diversity of all types-gender, race, intellect, age, etc.

Catherine Devine, Chief Digital Officer, American Museum of Natural History

“People think I’d need advice on how to do my job, because I’m young”

“It’s funny how men assume that, because I’m young and I work for a company they’re not familiar with, that I would need advice on how to make Urban Adventures a “success.”

I think you should follow your passion no matter how old you are. Even now that I’m no longer a newbie to the industry, I seek out other women at industry networking events and hanging out with them helps. Right now, there’s such an amazing collaborative vibe amongst females; everyone’s looking for someone else to elevate.

Nikki Padilla, Guide Success Manager, Urban Adventures

“Keeping a well-balanced life, while performing in the workplace”

“It’s difficult to keep a well-balanced life, while always performing in your workplace. Checking in with yourself is very important. Travel is a 24/7 industry. Hence, it’s important to have a sense of genuine curiosity about the world. If you stop being curious, you might feel trapped and eventually feel depressed.”

Annie Fitzsimmons, Editor at large, National Geographic Travel

“I replied “I am the boss,” and you could see the shock and surprise”

After meeting with a new partner in Italy, he told me to speak with my boss and let him know if we’d like to move forward. I replied “I am the boss,” and you could see the shock and surprise come across his face. Once they accept that I run my own company, often, I’m pressed with “How old are you?” I can’t help feeling a 28-year-old male would be met with respect and seen as a responsible entrepreneur, but as a 28-year-old female, I sense my abilities and experience are doubted purely based on my age and gender. I take a bit of pleasure in blowing their minds this way! I’m proud to show the diversity in what “business” looks like and be an example for other women.

Sierra Busch, Founder, Creative Edge Travel

“Women are expected to be the face of things but not the brains”

Women are expected to be the face of things but not the brains behind the business. People are always telling me I need to share what I look like, but I don’t think this is important. There are many sacrifices, hours, days, months spent learning things, time and effort to build this community. Travel is the purpose of my brand, and that’s what I focus on, the destination, not the fashion or “image” of what a women is expected to be in society these days. Often it’s very stressful. To overcome this ‘expectation,’ I take a break. Take a walk in a park to unplug. After that, I feel better. I would have more energy and ideas I’d love to explore.

Nastasia Yakoub, Founder, Dame Traveler community


  • Shabrina Koeswologito


    My name is Shabrina, and I write about travel, community building, and how to become the best version of yourself. I build the Slow Travel Story community to encourage people to travel not as a way to escape life but travel as a part of life.