The number of women landing leading roles in the workforce has increased significantly over the last several years, requiring them to travel more frequently and boost productivity while doing so. Nearly half of today’s business travelers are female, and although this number grows year after year, employers continue to struggle with providing females with the proper tools and information needed to help ensure their safety while traveling for business. In a recent study conducted by International SOS in conjunction with Ipsos Mori, we found that only 27% of business travel risk programs in the Americas include considerations specific to female travelers.
Women are often viewed as vulnerable targets, and because of this, they face higher risks than their male counterparts. It is important for organizations to consider the varying cultural, legal, health and social challenges women could face to effectively mitigate health and safety risks. The best way businesses can ensure their female staff is traveling safely is to prepare them in advance. Organizations should require all employees to take training that highlights the best practices while traveling for business.
In addition to those modules, there should be assets available to employees that address travel risk for their increasingly growing, diverse workforce including women, LGBTQ, persons with disabilities, etc. Access to all information should be regularly available to staff at all times. Additionally, organizations can ensure the safety of their mobile workforce by keeping them up to date with medical and security alerts about the risks in the destinations to which they are traveling. This should be offered to employees prior to their departure and throughout the entirety of the trip, along with advice and 24/7 resources for handling an incident should something happen while traveling.
Risk exposure for the female mobile workforce is around the clock. While there are a number of preventative measures that all business travelers can take to mitigate risks, females face unique challenges and considerations based on their profile. Today, some of the top risks for female business travelers include sexual assault, sexual harassment and opportunistic crime, such as bag theft. While risks like bag theft may seem less significant in comparison to sexual assault and sexual harassment, they can lead to larger issues including violence.
Although keeping an open line of communication with coworkers and family may seem like a go-to solution for ensuring safety while traveling, communication is just one aspect of mitigating risks. There are tips that female business travelers should be advised to follow when undertaking business travel to any region, including:
- Know your profile
All travelers are different and have different levels of confidence while traveling. The best way to be prepared is to know and understand your own personal profile. Are you a confident traveler? Are you an outgoing traveler who likes to take risks? Can you speak the language spoken in that country? Do your dress preferences align with those of the country that you are visiting? By understanding your personal profile, you can better prepare and pack accordingly to help ensure a safe trip.
- Research your destination before you travel
Knowing information about your destination before your departure is very important. Take the time to research the neighborhood, cultural landscape and the best way to travel from one location to another. While researching, females should look for the following:
- Security threats in the area or surrounding areas
- Appropriate modes of transportation
- Culture etiquette
- Hotspots for protests, unrest, opportunistic crime
- No-go zones within areas of interest
- Be a Hard Target
Criminals are looking for people who appear to be unfamiliar with their environment. It’s essential that female travelers take precautionary measures to make themselves hard targets while traveling abroad. Take the time to arrange transposition upon arrival, avoid arriving to your destination late at night or early in the morning, and move with purpose through security as quickly as possible. Additionally, if you are traveling alone, don’t make it known on social media or during conversations with locals at your destination.
- Confidence is key
Portraying confidence and assertiveness will limit exposure to risks. When traveling to a foreign area, walk with confidence and act with purpose. Travelers should always adhere to personal comfort levels and trust their instincts, even if in an area they have been to many times before.
- Stay calm
Remain calm but vigilant in uncomfortable situations. When you lose your control in difficult or uncomfortable situations, you lessen your power over the situation. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable in any way, be aware of who can help you and get to a safe place as soon as possible.
As the female mobile workforce continues to grow, so do the risks for these women. For businesses, training is key. The best way for female business travelers to mitigate risks is to prepare with the proper tools before their departure.