The theme for this years International Women’s Day is Balance For Better. We and Exodus Travel have been pioneering new adventures for 45 years. Now we’re changing the face of the travel industry in a different way: by addressing the gender imbalance amongst our talented, hardworking leaders.
Behind the scenes, we’ve been working to empower women to be able to choose a career as an Exodus leader regardless of where they are in the world, whilst being sensitive to cultural differences along the way. Now we’ve started to see some of the results and we can’t wait to share them with you
Meet 4 of our Exodus female leaders
Nhung Bui, Vietnam
“Being a tour leader has empowered me a lot, it made me more confident and prouder.” Says Nhung Bui, one of our leaders in Vietnam. Her route to becoming a guide is a common pattern; she began leading city tours, and built up to longer tours away from home. “I have five years of experience as a freelance local guide around Ho Chi Minh city. I felt that it was time to grow, so I applied for a leader role with hopes to overcome more challenges and learn new things. What I tell aspiring female tour leaders is to just do whatever they wish and be strong. Women can do as much as men do in almost any field – not just being a tour leader.”
And Nhung isn’t alone in Vietnam. “Nhi Pham was our guide and a wonderful young woman.” Says Susan Ross, who travelled to Vietnam last year. “Her knowledge of local history really brought Vietnam alive for me, with anecdotes and localisms. Without her, my journey and experience would have been very poor. Nhi takes great pride and respect her country, therefore making her a wonderful ambassador for Vietnam.”
In Indonesia, Elly is one of our most popular guides. Her positive outlook has been noted by our travellers’ numerous times, being described as “full of so much joy and enthusiasm” (Isabella Campbell Harry) and “always going the extra mile to make our holiday special and share her knowledge and information” (Kev Sheard).
As for Elly herself, what would she say to others hoping to follow where she’s led? “My advice for people, especially female tour leaders, is that we have so many advantages in this field. We can inspire another female to be productive in whatever they want to do, because before now, female tour leader hadn’t been seen as much as male in this area, but now tourism industry has grown lately. Now a female tour leader is common to see. I’d encourage anyone that a female can be a leader in any kind of activities,” she says. “We now understand that there’s no wall anymore that can prevent a woman from being in the spotlight.”
Qin, our leader in China, is looking towards a brighter future. “This situation is getting more optimistic. In tourism, female leaders get same respect and politeness when we give the clients enough information and services. I am lucky to live in China and get more opportunities to work, not just be born to provide offspring. Now I am trying to do more exercises in my spare time, to be fit when there are hiking and trekking during the tour. This is the situation I should improve now. I believe one day female can get more achievement and become as confident as men.”
“At first, I was just wanted to be able to earn enough to support my mother and help my sisters get an education. Besides that, I wanted to challenge myself and show Cambodians that Cambodian woman can do more than just cook and raise children. In the process, I discovered that I have a passion to show my beautiful country to the world.”
Channa’s success as a leader belies her modest intentions when she began. But it’s a role not readily accepted in Cambodian society; it is considered an inappropriate job for a woman. “Being a tour leader requires me to be on road a lot and spend most of my time away from family, which is both rare and frowned upon in Cambodia. Single Cambodian women who travel a lot with foreigners are thought to be or treated as being loose women to some Cambodian men. Not only does this bring shame on the wronged women’s families, it affects her ability to find a good Cambodian man to marry. I have chosen to be single because if I get married most likely I have to quit the job and settle at home. A woman in Cambodia who could not get married or does not have children is often considered a failure and to not be a true woman.” Channa admits that this attitude undoubtedly does discourage capable women from considering it for a vocation, and these gender stereotypes will persist for some time yet. “But foreign-owned companies can do their part by hiring and promoting Cambodian women to management positions.” She asserts. The travel industry can’t do it all, but we can take responsibility for our share in the change that is coming.