A new report is detailing what its authors say is an unsettling trend in which women are fleeing the Vancouver Island tourism industry.
The groups 4VI and Women of Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality (WORTH Association) are sounding the alarm after their report identified several gaps in gender equity within the industry.
The report says there has been a steady decline in the number of women who pursue careers in tourism despite the increasing demand for skilled professionals. An inclusive definition of a woman was used, with the survey also open to trans, cisgender, queer and non-binary participants.
According to Go2HR, the tourism and hospitality workforce in Vancouver Island is comprised of 46 per cent women and 54 per cent men. Employment for Vancouver Island women in tourism and hospitality decreased by 26 per cent from 2019 to 2020 and 22 per cent between 2019 and 2021. Tourism HR Canada indicates fewer women in the industry for 2023, whereas men’s employment has seen gains.
Kyla Egan, director of sustainability for 4VI, said home and family life are contributing factors to women leaving the industry.
“Some of the details in the study talk about lack of upward mobility, lack of livable wage and also, disproportionately, women are still responsible for domestic labour within their homes,” said Egan.
She added that Vancouver Island is a region where tourism is the main industry, and is why the issue is coming to the forefront.
“We really, really need to get our labor shortage sorted out,” Egan said.
The research also revealed that 25 per cent of women surveyed are not assured they will remain in the sector within the next 12 to 24 months.
Joanna Jagger, the co-founder of the Women of Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality (WORTH Association), said “gender-focused studies in the tourism and hospitality industries have been historically limited.”
Egan and Jagger began collaborating after Egan reached out to better understand how the 4VI organization could help fill some of the gaps. Through her work, Jagger understood that there was no available data on the topic of gender equity that was specific to Vancouver Island, so they decided to work together to make the research report come to fruition.
Launching in January 2024, the two organizations will host a leadership education program open to 50 women participants.
“We have a program that we are launching. A (virtual) leadership program in January for women across the industry, and it teaches them management skills that would lead up to upward mobility,” said Egan.
The course will launch in late November for women interested in learning about developing management skills, growing confidence, and advancing careers through coursework, assessments, and virtual coaching. Anyone interested can sign up for the 4VI newsletter to keep updated.
However, the problem is not specific to Vancouver Island, said Egan, adding that she has had conversations with economic developers and other industry associations from Kelowna to Zurich who are interested in conducting similar research to focus on gender equity.
“I think that it was important to create a space for meaningful engagement and consultation in the industry. We really need to stop and listen to their feedback in order to design and develop programming and other resources that would correctly address the systemic issue,” said Egan.