Before the pandemic, the cruise industry was hitting the headlines for the progress it had made in bringing more women into the higher echelons of leadership. You could almost hear the trumpets sound when the Celebrity Edge sailed its first cruise on International Women's Day (March 8) 2020, with an all-female bridge and hotel officer team helmed by the line's first American female captain.
Celebrity wasn't alone. More women were beginning to appear in corporate leadership across the board - from Carnival to Princess, Windstar to Uniworld.
The cruise industry still has a long way to go before it recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, which resulted in catastrophic job and revenue losses. Just over a third (34%) of cruise employees lost their jobs in aggregate - compared to 15% in the hotel sector - and billions of dollars of market value has been wiped out.
However, there is still positive news on the gender diversity front, particularly if you delve deeper than the headline figures. Zero female CEOs and zero female chairs across the major listed cruise companies does not sound promising; nor does a 35% gender balance across the workforce, falling to 3% at C-Suite level.
But there are slivers of light. The percentage of women on boards has increased 10%, from 12% in 2007 to 22% in 2021. In addition, as the cruise sector is highly consolidated, with a handful of large corporations owning multiple well-known cruise brands, it is important to look at the businesses within the businesses.
There may be no women in the top spots of the major cruise conglomerates, but there are female CEOs and Presidents within P&O Cruises, Holland America Group, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Regent Seven Sea Cruises.
Supported by the cruise industry's largest trade association, CLIA, which has made gender diversity a key goal, these women are holding out their hands to pull more women up to their level, as well as working to promote careers at sea for women from a young age. It is only with that pipeline of women coming through the workforce that sustained progress can be made.
In the years to come, there is certainly hope that the cruise sector can catch up with some of the more evenly balanced areas of the travel and tourism industry, like online travel agents (OTAs). Out of the listed OTAs and Travel Companies surveyed in this research, a heartening 56% of the overall workforce are women, with 36% at senior management level and 26% on boards. The figures are still not where they need to be. Only 10% of CEOs in the OTA sector are female and there were no female chairs in the group analysed. But progress is being made and the pipeline of female talent ready to be promoted in the near future is rapidly strengthening.
The Numbers Behind Women in Leadership: Cruise Lines, OTAs, & Travel Agencies report was published by Aptamind Partners led by Aradhana Khowala and FiveEightTen. You can read the full report at www.Aptamind.com. You can also visit www.FiveEightTen.com.