Attitudes relating to diversity and inclusion need to change for the sector to resonate with the next generation, says TapTrip's Neil Ruth
Representing the biggest group of consumers worldwide, Gen Z and digital natives are essential to the recovery of our industry and are leading the ‘bleisure’ movement. Layer onto this reassurances around sustainability, safety, and diversity and inclusion (D&I), this influential consumer group demands and responds to transparency.
It’s important, then, that we represent D&I considerations rather than just respond to them. Without a representative workforce, how can you fully understand your consumer and build an unbiased, fully-representative product for them?
There are lots of ways to look at the issue of diversity and inclusion – gender, race, age, sexuality, social status/mobility, neurological access – but when it comes to determining how the business travel sector compares, it’s difficult to judge because there’s little research or stats.
From a sexuality perspective, I don’t personally see a problem within travel and I say that as an openly gay man. From a gender perspective, the travel industry looks on paper to be sound but (IMHO) only to a point.
There are many women working in travel, but there is also a pretty evident glass ceiling. I still see very male-heavy – if not 100% male dominated – senior management teams, which definitely needs to be rectified. I will gladly hold a mirror up to TapTrip’s own board, which consists of three similarly-aged, white men.
Lots can and needs to be done, starting with transparency. The sector must be open and honest (in public) about its workforce split. We, along with Duffel, are one of the few organisations I know to publish this data.
Development is so male dominated but achieving a 50/50 gender split is something TapTrip aspires to.
“I will gladly hold a mirror up to TapTrip’s own board, which consists of three similarly-aged, white men”
We actively encourage applications across the spectrum and from minorities through a partnership with Salford University and North Coders in Manchester. We also have a sliding salary scale, which gives us space to factor in potential alongside experience and expertise. So, if we think someone could be brilliant in say six to 12 months, but just needs a bit of help right now, we don’t rule them out. We support them with training to reach their potential, rather than risk missing out on their future genius.
We also approach creative disruption through a D&I gaze. We believe it’s par for the course these days to represent your brand in an inclusive way (and a huge hat tip to Travelport here). It isn’t about box ticking anymore, about shoehorning stock shots of black and brown people or women into corporate brochures.
This is about having a 360-degree approach to diversity and being authentic and accountable, so product development, conference panels, boards, trade associations, editorial and communications all need to change.
“It isn’t about box ticking anymore, about shoehorning stock shots of black and brown people or women into corporate brochures”
When creating our brand identity, we chose to work with Divina de Campo from Ru Paul’s Drag Race (everyone’s guilty pleasure!). As a pop culture phenomenon she elevated our campaign with intrigue and resonates in a fun way with Gen Z and Millennial business travellers who use our product and who are under-represented in terms of comms, which are dominated by those stock shots of businesspeople in suits sat in airports yet make up 60% of the workforce. This was us giving a massive nod to inclusion in its most extreme form and (authentically) ticking all the diversity boxes.
Working with Davina was our way of giving everyone a great big bear hug.
Neil Ruth is COO of TapTrip, a Manchester-based company which provides an online booking tool with an intuitive, user-experience focused platform for booking and managing business travel, plus a mobile app for safety and wellbeing