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IWD III: In a population of 1.3 billion, showcasing a 100 is not anything to be proud of – Vasudha Sondhi, MD, OMPL Group

Women have accomplished incredible benchmarks for decades, not just in the domain of travel and tourism, but in the verticals of economic, political and social contributions at the same time. The travel and tourism sector in particular is bestowed with 54% women representation across the globe, although there remain some aspects where the women-kind is still on the lookout to set a footprint with excellence.

On International Women’s Day, T3 takes the opportunity to draw a spotlight on our women readers from cross-section of the industry. Vasudha Sondhi, MD, OMPL Group, shares her views with T3.

What is your opinion regarding the presence of an effective mechanism for monitoring and assessment of the progress made by women in the tourism domain?

I believe such a mechanism has been put in place by the UNWTO but currently India is not part of the project. In India there is a high percentage of women in the tourism business, but they are at a mid or low level. When the work pressure increases, they usually drop out thus not making it to top positions. This monitoring is very important to see if the government-led initiatives are being followed to achieve our goals of gender equality.

India’s G20 Presidency also aims to serve as an opportunity to showcase women-led development, with our Hon’ble PM Modi noting: “We have to maintain priority on women-led development even in our G-20 agenda”. What is your opinion?

It’s a good aim to have but we are very far from it. As India’s economy grows a lot of women are dropping out of the workforce. There is nothing to showcase now. In a population of 1.3 billion, showcasing a few 100 is not anything to be hugely proud about. If the government really means business, there needs be a consistent and large media blitzkrieg on changing the mindset towards women in paid employment.

Where are we lacking in terms of initiatives, skill development and training, and implementation of women empowerment activities by industry?

On the one hand, there are government-led initiatives to make the workplace more women-friendly. On the other hand, employers feel that they are forced to make concessions for women. Again if the government really wants to encourage a woman-friendly workplace let them give some concessions to organizations that make their workplace women-friendly. Women are the primary caregivers at home, they need maternity leave from work, they need extra hygiene at the workplace and the possibility of a creche too.  Let us consider this a basic requirement. And most certainly we need training and skill development at several levels, starting with basic job knowledge to finance and business management. Government simultaneously needs to sensitize the community on the importance of women contributing to the growth of the economy by participating in the paid workforce.

What are the factors that create hindrances to a healthy ecosystem for women entrepreneurs in tourism?

Hindrance is, I think acceptance that a woman can reach the top on her own terms, acceptance of a woman as an equal. Secondly, in rural India, we just don’t have the kind of paid jobs women can do. Even if they run a homestay, the women end up doing all the farm work, house work and managing the homestay (cooking, cleaning, etc) so why should they take the extra work? Social and cultural norms have to be tackled first. This is the reason that the % of women working in paid jobs is declining even though our GDP is growing.

What is your message for budding women entrepreneurs in the travel & tourism domain?

The travel and tourism industry is a great industry to be in. It gives you the opportunity to grow your business at any level. You have to persevere. If you put your hard work and passion in this business, it will give you rich dividends.






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