Travelling For Work? These Businesswomen Spill on Safety Tips
Seema Nair, currently Program Officer – South Asia, for The Fund for Global Human Rights, tells me:
When with the United Nations, I visited Sri Lanka on work. I was staying at the only accommodation available – a remote resort in Kandy. On my first night there, the security guard of the property climbed into my room and sexually assaulted me. The shock of the attack left me physically numb, but I screamed as loud as I could. It frightened him enough to run away.
Nair goes on to relate how she managed to gather her wits and head to the nearest cottage for help –
The family there spoke only Sinhalese and it took them a while to comprehend what I was saying. Having finally understood, the man accompanied me to the reception where the same security guard was spinning a story of how somebody else attacked me. I slapped him hard, asked the receptionists to ensure he did not escape and the next morning, filed a case at the local police station where he was locked up.
Nair’s experience is a case of sexual assault that solo women travellers run the risk of encountering anywhere in the world.
But it is also a fact that safety is just one of the issues that women travelling on work face.
Speaking to over 100 women for its research, Maiden Voyage revealed that one in four women travellers have suffered a safety related incident when on company business, ranging from theft to serious sexual assault. 51% stated they felt vulnerable in their hotel, 55% in cabs and 67% on public transport.
I ask Kiran Balimane, Co-Founder and VP at Insteract – a focused travel business platform – what he thinks about the statistics, and Balimane tells me:
As more women join the global workforce, the number of women business travellers will increase – and so will women-specific services like cabs and women-only hotels, etc. As per Forbes, there will be an increased focus globally on women-related policies of sexual harassment, diversity information, work flexibility, etc.
Geetha Prabhu, Founder, COO – WorkFlexi, a fixed-term contract job portal, and a regular business traveller adds,
Anindita Ghosh – Human Resource Business Partner, India and SEA, for a large computer and accessories company and based in Mumbai – supports HR for 7 countries and travels often.
Trying to keep her personal interests in mind, she says,
I try and avoid reaching a place at late hours and opt for hotel pick-ups in unfamiliar cities. I think that companies should let their women employees opt for flight timings of their choice. Company travel desks need to ensure that the hotels are of high standards and conveniently located. Cab services that are used, need to be regularly vetted. And, of course, the travel desk/admin should keep track when a female employee is travelling.
A number of efforts are currently being made to improve circumstances for women business travellers.
Bharathi Shetty, who is Founder and Managing Director of Frontier Holidays, deals with hotels that offer exclusive women-only rooms and floors across their properties.
They have also introduced security measures such as videophones for additional screening of visitors, restricted key card entry and a women-only staff on all such floors.
Airline carriers like Vistara have begun offering help to women flying solo with their bags, escorting them to and from their ground transportation, and giving them preferred window and aisle seats on flights.
Companies also need to have contingencies in place, in the case of flight and hotel cancellations which can be a nightmare for women travellers. Cab services with women drivers will be helpful.
Thanks to the power of social media, there are now several groups online that provide practical knowledge and assistance when women want to travel on their own and have queries. Take the closed group on Facebook – Solo Women Travellers #India, for instance.
Priyanka Dalal – a business growth consultant, digital nomad and avid traveller herself – is one of the moderators. She says,
I ensure that I try and check all profiles well before accepting their request to ensure it remains an all-women group. A lot of men send ‘join’ requests so active moderation is required to keep it women’s only. I share about my solo travel adventures every now and then. I also provide recommendations and encouragement to other women looking to travel. Often, women on the group connect with each other to go on trips together, create WhatsApp groups to discuss travel. Other times, they ask for advice –and those who can offer it come forward with recommendations and choices.
(Ruth is a media professional who has worked across multiple platforms in the last 15 years. She believes that every experience and interaction adds a new dimension to her perspective of the world and she loves every minute of what she does.)