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by Maria Paravantes

Whether as travelers or as top executives, women are a force to be reckoned with and one that is set to play a decisive role in the future of tourism. And yet, in the year 2018, on the dawn of yet one more International Women’s Day on March 8, females are still far behind their male counterparts in every aspect of life.

They may be moving up in the echelons of politics and corporate life but they still remain few and far between compared to men, who continue to hold the majority of key positions in everything from company boards and hotel management to business ownership and public policy.

Equal Parity in Greece

Things couldn’t be any different in Greece. Females in tourism are stuck in low status, meager paying jobs earning almost 15 percent less then men, with many – particularly in family-owned businesses – not being paid at all and with no insurance coverage.

At the same time, Greece welcomed some 19.7 million tourists in 2015 which grew by 6.5 percent in 2016 to 21 million. Of these visitors, the majority – 54.2 percent in 2015 and 51.6 percent in 2016 – were women, according to data by IPK International and SETE Intelligence.

Meanwhile, females influence 85 percent of all purchasing decisions and account for 58 percent of all online sales, according to Skift’s Trends Report: The Rise of Female Business Travelers.

And yet gender-inclusive policies are still lagging. According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report for 2017, the gender gap is set to grow even wider this year with data pointing to the loss of 2.45 million jobs held by women through to 2020.

In terms of gender equality in the workplace, estimates say this will not be achieved until 2095.

The news is discouraging and the statistics are disturbing. In the World Economic Forum ranking, Greece joins Italy, Cyprus and Malta at the bottom of the gender gap index (of more than 30 percent) but has moved up several spots in the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex to (78 out of 144 countries) due to improvements in wage equality for similar work and women’s share of estimated earned income.

In terms of educational attainment, Greece holds the 76th spot, ranked 89th in the health and survival index and 88th in political empowerment. Women’s share in Greek parliament is at 18.3 percent compared to 81.7 percent of males. While 21.1 percent hold ministerial positions against 78.9 percent of men.

In the meantime, according to the same report for 2017 despite the fact that Greece has laws in place mandating equal pay as well as legislation on domestic violence, there are no non-discrimination laws concerning the hiring of females.

Believing in the Future

There is good news however: the number businesses in Greece run by women rose in 2015 by 21 percent compared to 19.6 percent in 2014, according to an ICAP Group study. Seven out of 10 are also shareholders. Furthermore, more females are now sitting on the boards of Greece’s tourism foundations, associations, federations and bodies, while the country’s tourism minister, Elena Kountoura, is also a woman.

Since 1952, when women were given the right to vote in Greece, females have made strides across all fields and in all spheres of life. Undeniably, there is still a long way to go towards achieving the equal representation of women and men. Greece’s women know this.

The female force behind the country’s tourism sector also knows this.

On this day – just one of the 365 days dedicated to women – they share their vision for a better future in response to one question: What can a woman bring to tourism?

The answers are as diverse as our guests, but they all point to this: intuition, flexibility and passion.

What can a woman bring to tourism?