Tourvest’s successful learnership programme could easily be replicated across the tourism industry to provide women with the educational and mentoring opportunities needed to advance their representation in the sector.
This is the view of Judi Nwokedi, Tourvest’s chief operating officer, who attended the recent Women in Tourism Conference at the Kopanong Hotel and Conference Centre where the challenges and opportunities facing women in the industry were discussed.
Nwokedi said that the general consensus at the conference was that while much had been achieved in terms of gender parity in the industry, there was still much that needed to be done. “More so than other sectors of our economy, tourism is well positioned to advance female representation in the formal sector but the challenge remains to provide them with mentoring and educational opportunities to ensure their careers can progress meaningfully up the corporate ladder.”
She said presentations by Grant Thornton and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation painted a dichotomous picture of female representation in tourism; characterised, on the one hand, by the industry’s significant contribution to the upliftment of women in remote, rural areas and, on the other, the continued gender disparity in income and senior positions in the formal sector.
In Africa, women comprised 47% of the industry’s total workforce but only 37% progressed into senior roles, where they were likely to earn between 10% and 15% less than their male counterparts. In small and medium enterprises, women made up a higher proportion of own-account workers than any other sector with 20.8% of employers in entrepreneurial businesses comprising women; almost double that of any other sector.
“Tourvest has been a model of transformation in the industry by successfully putting more than 200 learners through a NQF level 5 course in general travel and tourism through our learnership programme, which is an accredited training provider with the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA). Approximately 80% of these learners have subsequently been employed by the company, with several of them progressing into management and senior consultant positions,” Nwokedi said. “The majority of the beneficiaries of this programme have been women.”
The Women in Tourism Conference was established by the National Department of Tourism in partnership with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa and was aimed at engaging women on issues such as economic empowerment, establishing support structures and incentives for women, creating a platform to celebrate women achievers and discussing the overall status of women in the tourism sector. The forum’s agenda is based on four pillars; these being respect for women in the industry, recognition of their contribution to the sector, encouraging their representation in economic activities and leadership, and producing results that will grow and enhance the industry.