Our Five Minutes with… this month is with Carolyn Pearson, Founder and CEO of Maiden Voyage.
Tell us why you founded Maiden Voyage?
I was on a business trip in LA and wanted to get out and explore the city but didn’t feel confident to go out in the evenings to do that. I wanted to create a global network of women business travellers who could meet up and explore together as well as share tips and recommendations.
How has traveller safety improved over the years?
Little did I know about travel safety and duty of care when I entered the scene in 2008 but years later I can see that we were in the right place at the right time. Organisations have been met with various legislation which makes it a legal requirement to safeguard their business travellers through tools such a traveller tracking, pre-travel risk assessments, and traveller safety training. The new ISO 31030 standard will further provide excellence and improved diligence in travel risk management.
Has the pandemic changed traveller safety?
Yes, prior to the pandemic the business travel agenda was heavily focused on traveller wellbeing. The pandemic forced travel managers and suppliers to combine efforts to include a blend of traveller wellbeing and traveller safety. The pandemic has affected the mental health of most people whether that be through grief for a lost loved one or concerns about catching COVID-19 as well as the impact of daily social isolation. It’s become much more acceptable for employees to decline a trip since we’ve proven that many activities can be conducted virtually or in a hybrid fashion.
What risks should women and LGBTQ+ travellers be aware of?
The risks facing diverse and minority groups are the business of everybody in the organisation not just those that fall into particular categories. There are of course cultural restrictions and differences impacting how women are received and perceived in certain regions which might require them to dress or even behave differently. There are specific challenges related to pregnancy, such as the risk of the Zika virus and menopause isn’t without its challenges for business travellers. Similarly, same-sex relationships are still illegal in over 70 countries, terrifyingly some of those countries still carry the death penalty, and ‘bad-actors’ or even the authorities will go to extreme lengths to identify and persecute members of the LGBTQ+ community. The trans community have their own challenges and in particular when in the airport environment be that through awkward situations arising from the airport scanning process to carrying hormone treatment and ambuigity around gender assignment paperwork. Systemic sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and racism continues and we need to protect ourselves, speak out and support each other. By having grown-up conversations across an organisation we can all be better allies and be more understanding if somebody is reticent to undertake a particular trip.
What can companies do to help ensure the safety of their employees when travelling?
I’m a big believer in prevention and mitigation rather than having to remedy an incident. Employers should be making resources to support their business travellers widely available for anonymous consumption by all employees. This prevents employees having to disclose their sexual orientation, medical status or whether they are pregnant. We should be asking the right questions, i.e.
1. Are you comfortable taking this trip?
2. Is there anything we can do to make you feel more comfortable or safe during this upcoming trip?
Those that really care about their employees will invest in regular pre-travel training whilst acknowledging that different risks face different minority groups. A ‘one size fits all’ approach is the antithesis of an inclusive approach to travel safety. Finally, make it easy for employees to give feedback on their trips, it’s too late to find out an employee has been sexually assaulted on a business trip during an exit interview – and yes this really does happen.
What can travellers do themselves to prepare for their next trip?
Research their destinations and feel confident in speaking up if any part of their trip makes them feel uncomfortable. That could a certain destination, a particular hotel or car company or even a colleague who will be accompanying them.
What’s next for you and Maiden Voyage?
We’re having a busy year this year, with some exciting projects under our belt. We’ve produced a series of travel safety animations, films, and documentaries for some of our clients and I really enjoy the creativity that such projects demand – so I’d like to see more of them. We’ve also seen a huge increase in demand for our in-person courses with some new topics including Anti-Asian Hate Crime, Running Inclusive Events, Event Incident Management and Personal Safety and Self Defence classes. We’re looking to expand our team of trainers, particularly across the USA as demand increases and we become more well-known across the pond.
To find out more about how Meon can help with your Duty of Care needs please contact us by email at [email protected] or by telephone +44 (0)116 264 5270.