From Travel to Nonprofits: Opportunities for Women Leaders To Bloom

In the 2002 "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," actress Nia Vardalos played a travel agent, a sector where women dominate as workers, but not at the top as leaders. From the image of the giddy United Airlines flight attendant in the 1968 commercial “Come Fly With Me” to Nia Vardalos as the one-woman travel agency in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” decades later, both scenes may create the impression that women dominate the travel industry.But it is not so true at the top, according to Travel Weekly. The gap in leadership in the travel industry is narrowing, but it is still there.[bctt tweet=“The gap in leadership in the travel industry is narrowing, but it is still there.”]Michelle Baran writes: “Despite the large number of women who make up the travel and tourism workforce, when you look at the boardrooms and C-suites at some of the largest global travel companies, the numbers range from as low as one woman on an executive team of 25 at Las Vegas Sands (4 percent representation), to as high as 33 percent at American Airlines, where there are three women on the nine-person management team.”“’I know it sounds cliche, but the old boys’ club is alive and well,’ said Laura Mandala, the founder of Women in Travel and Tourism International (Witti), a women-only organization that was created four years ago in an effort to nurture success among women in the travel and tourism sector.”Barab continues: “Michelle ‘Mick’ Lee founded the organization Women in Travel (Winit) to provide greater resources for females in the industry and the tools to help them achieve success. The 3,000-member organization includes both male and female members.“’This issue is not unique to our industry,’ Lee said.’ The part that is very different about [the travel industry] when you’re looking at metrics, over 60 -to 65 percent of the workforce in hospitality are already women. And yet the more senior you go, the less women there are. What that provides us with is a unique opportunity. Where there are other sectors, such as manufacturing and engineering, where you first have to get women in and then get them up, we already have a very strong, over 50 percent of the workforce, so our goal is to get women up.“And it is not just in the U.S., where efforts to improve opportunities for women leaders in the travel industry are in the works, but globally.“As the travel industry works to improve its gender equality stats at the corporate level in the developed world, some travel companies have also recognized the unique opportunity that exists for travel to create improved economic parity for women in the developing world as well,” Baran writes.Like hospitality and travel, the nonprofit sector seems to be a prime arena for growth for some women leaders. But it’s complicated.[bctt tweet=“Like hospitality and travel, the nonprofit sector seems to be a prime arena for growth for women.”]In Chicago, women leaders hold the top financial positions at legacy cultural institutions, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Museum of Science and Industry, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Joffrey Ballet, Chicago History Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.Lisa Bertagnoli writes: “Nationwide, 42 percent of nonprofit CFOs are women, according to GuideStar’s 2015 Nonprofit Compensation Report, published in September. Among Fortune 500 companies, it’s 13.8 percent.”There’s a “but.”“That’s the good news. The bad: Nonprofit CFO seems to be the new ’women’s job’ in the C-suite, much like general counsel, chief marketing officer and HR jobs at for-profits. The top jobs still go to men. Plus female CFOs at nonprofits make an average of 20 percent less than men in similar roles, according to the GuideStar report, which is based on information from 2013 990 tax forms. A nonprofit post seems to be a late-career move, not a career path, for women.”But there may be turmoil brewing at nonprofits across the board, according to new research from North Carolina State University, as uncovered in “Turnover at the Top: Exploring Nonprofit Executive Turnover,” in the journal Nonprofit Management & Leadership.According to Newswise: “There has been very little empirical evaluation of executive turnover in nonprofits,” says Amanda Stewart, an assistant professor of public administration at NC State and author of a paper describing the work. “And, because executive turnover is inevitable, it’s important to pay attention to what organizations can do to limit any adverse impacts turnover can have on a nonprofit and its mission.”According to the report, “Stewart says that the interviews revealed a ‘Goldilocks’ spectrum of nonprofit boards, when it came to interacting with executives. ‘Too little’ boards offered virtually no support or oversight to executives; “too much” boards tried to micromanage executives; and ‘just right’ boards used the turnover to assess their organizational needs and hire an executive who was equipped to address those needs. Ideally, executives also wanted their boards to communicate effectively and to provide public support when needed.”Travel and non-profits are just two of many sectors where the influx of women leaders is growing, but more needs to happen in many other fields. Banking and finance, for instance.According to Marie Claire, an upcoming London conference will host female leaders sharing strategies on rising to the top as a woman leader. “Kick-ass female bosses, including Virgin Money’s CEO, Jayne-Anne Gadhia, and CEO of major City accountancy firm Grant Thornton, Sacha Romanovitch will share their thoughts on the challenges facing women in finance, and how to smash gender stereotypes by not becoming a ‘she-man’. As Jayne-Anne Gadhia tells us, ‘It does surprise me that there aren’t more women as bank CEOs and this definitely needs to be sorted out.‘”