Winners announced at the IBM iX everywoman in Travel Awards

The travel industry celebrated outstanding talent from the UK and beyond with the announcement of the 2018 IBM iX everywoman in Travel Awards winners. The awards celebrated individuals from all walks of life who are championing gender diversity and whose talents are driving real commercial results for their businesses. TThe event was attended by the industry’s most discerning senior business leaders and supporters of the everywoman awards programmes, including Sarah Newton, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work.

Although women make up 70% of the travel workforce, they only account for 15.8% of all board positions*. This is why IBM iX became involved as Title Partner for the 2018 everywoman in Travel Awards – to help drive change. Since becoming everywoman’s first brand partner 20 years ago, they have been leading the diversity agenda globally, across various industry sectors. Their joint efforts will now be extended into the travel sector, with a focus on technological innovation.

Now in its second year, the awards programme celebrated a wider range of talent with the introduction of four new categories for 2018. These included a Male Agent of Change Award, which recognises the men who are committed to creating a gender-balanced workforce and an International Inspiration Award for a role model based outside the UK, making a difference in her community.

Special recognition was given to the overall Woman of the Year - Captain Kate McWilliams, Airline Captain for easyJet – who at the age of 26 became the world’s youngest female Captain. Kate first discovered her love for flying when she was just 13 years old, after joining the Air Cadets - the youth wing of the Royal Air Force. On her 19th birthday, she started her commercial flying training and by the age of 21, was flying passengers all over Europe with easyJet. The discouragement she faced from others along her career journey only fuelled her even more to succeed. In a world where only 5% of airline pilots are female**, Kate’s achievements are exceptional and she is now reaching out to thousands of young girls (and boys), encouraging them to also consider a career in aviation.


The 2018 IBM iX everywoman in Travel Awards category winners are as follows:


One to Watch, sponsored by TripAdvisor

Awarded to a young game-changer under the age of 21 in education or apprenticeship who demonstrates a passion for the travel industry.

Hannah Fairley, Apprentice Travel Sales Consultant, Thomas Cook UK, from Edinburgh, who overcame crippling shyness and now flourishes in her role, consistently exceeding expectations. She’s a master of turning a negative into a positive, as she did when a distressed customer was accidentally booked into Las Palmas, Gran Canaria instead of Palma, Majorca.  Convincing the client that her incidental booking was actually in fact, the better option, she secured a better-quality hotel, which the customer has since rebooked. Overall, her digital marketing initiatives have resulted in 30% increased bookings.


Tomorrow’s Leader, sponsored by TTG Media 

Awarded to a woman under 30 making a significant contribution to the sector.

Alice Hye, Services Contracts Manager, AC Group, from West Wickham, who proved herself when she jumped straight in to help fulfil the contract requirements of a major international client win, which was confirmed just days after she joined. Within her first year, she grew the company’s Service Contract portfolio by 42% and negotiated promotional offers, which generated over £20,000 revenue in six months. Alice is now dedicated to encouraging female colleagues to develop their passion at work and has even mentored them into senior positions.



Entrepreneur, sponsored by Celebrity Cruises

Awarded to an owner/operator of a travel business that has been operating for three years or more whose vision will inspire other women to start their own enterprise.

Caroline Strachan, Managing Partner, FESTIVE ROAD, from Tunbridge Wells, who started her career in travel in 1995. Since joining FESTIVE ROAD in 2016 - one of the world's leading travel and meetings engagement consultancies – she has multiplied revenue by more than seven times and expanded its operations from the UK and France to Scandinavia, Germany, the USA and Australia. Through the non-profit networking community she set up, she now runs events that support women working in business travel.


Above & Beyond, sponsored by Avis Budget Group

Awarded to a woman at any stage of her career that has truly gone above and beyond her role to help drive the organisation's success.

Swati Agarwal, FP&A Manager, Celebrity Cruises, from Weybridge, A Chartered Accountant with a Masters degree in Finance, Swati joined Celebrity Cruises in 2016. Her role includes overseeing the management and control of a sales and marketing budget of £15 million, the communication of UK & Ireland performance to the head office and supporting company’s operations in Asia. When an opportunity to lead the Women’s, Multi-Cultural & Part-time Workers Employee Resource Group (ERG) presented itself in 2017, Swati stepped up to champion it. 14 months on, the ERG has accomplished several extraordinary initiatives under her leadership whilst extending support to its patron charities and groups, making her a role model for women in business and a key driver of diversity and equality.


Team Leader, sponsored by easyJet

Awarded to a woman whose team leadership has greatly contributed to the organisation’s success.

Roisin O'Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer, Walks, from Dublin, who completely redesigned the company’s consumer site, leading to a 73% transaction growth in just one year. Since she joined Walks – who offer walking tours, day trips and food tours in Italy, France, Spain, UK, New York and San Francisco - the company's revenues have multiplied five times and now serves seven times its usual number of annual passengers. To date, she has hired over 20 other talented women, many of whom are now in senior positions.


*New for 2018* Leader of Change, sponsored by Hilton

Awarded to a woman who is making a significant contribution towards the strategic direction of the business through best practices, employee engagement, improved productivity and innovation.

Clare Tobin, CEO, Olympic Holidays, from London. Her 20-year record in travel has inspired many who have worked with and for her. A true advocate for advancing women in travel, she announced three senior appointments just two weeks after becoming CEO and her board is now 50% female. She continues to help balance the ratio of women to men in key roles and with her help, 69% of the UK office and 80% of the overseas office are women, making the business 72% female overall.


*New for 2018* International Inspiration, sponsored by Gold Medal & Travel 2

Awarded to a woman working outside the UK & Ireland who is a role model for women in her community.

Meenu Vadera, Founder, Azad Foundation and Sakha Consulting Wings, from New Delhi. She spent 13 years working for Action Aid in Uganda before moving to India to set up two social enterprises offering employment to oppressed, marginalised women by training them to become professional chauffeurs. She is now changing the lives of over 650 women, helping generate more than 215,000 Euros in collective annual income.


*New for 2018* Male Agent of Change, sponsored by Heathrow 

Awarded to a man for his active commitment to advancing the progress of women working in travel.

Stuart Leven, Vice President EMEA, & Managing Director, RCL Cruises, from Weybridge, who took a primary role in addressing the company's Gender Pay Gap. After close analysis, he worked side by side with the Vice President and Managing Director to not only address existing pay inequality, but also suggested organisational changes to reduce the pay gap moving forward. These included mentoring programmes, accessible to all female managers, and everywomanNetwork membership to all employees in need of valuable resources to help advance their career.


*New for 2018 * Executive Leader – sponsored by Radisson Hotel Group

Awarded to a woman making a significant direct financial contribution to the commercial success of the business.

Julia Kemp, Director of International Sales & Partnerships, Avis Budget Group, from Bracknell. Recognising the value of a diverse workforce, she has helped the company’s previously male-dominated board become more gender-balanced with a total of six male and five female directors. She believes that technology underpins the growth of businesses, which is why she was determined to help the business invest heavily in tech, ensuring that outdated systems were replaced or upgraded. Through her innovation, direct marketing activity has generated over £42million.



Karen Gill MBE, Co-Founder of everywoman, comments: “Our recent white paper showed that access to female role models is a major source of inspiration for 74% of women, who state that role models inspire them to develop their careers***. This is why visible female talent is essential in all industries – you can’t be what you can’t see. By showcasing the success stories of this year’s winners, we, along with IBM iX, are determined to encourage the individuals that’ll make a valuable contribution to the future of the UK’s thriving travel sector.”

Debbie Vavangas, UKI Lead of Digital Strategy and iX for IBM added: "IBM iX is delighted to be sponsoring the everywoman in Travel Awards, recognising the outstanding achievements of those who work in such an ever-changing industry. Over the past two decades, developments in technology have played a fundamental role in the growth of the travel industry. Life is all about experiences and digital technology has changed the customer experience and the way in which we connect. Companies need to get smarter and adapt continuously as consumer expectations rise. In light of this, we need to recognise the outstanding achievements of those who work within this ever-changing industry. We wish everyone the best of luck.”

Sarah Newton, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Sarah Newton said: “We want women to reach their full potential in every area of their lives – whether that’s re-training later in life through an apprenticeship or representing other women as a Member of Parliament. “We’ve come a long way, with 1.6 million more women in work since 2010. But we can’t be complacent – by 2020 we want to see a third of all board and senior leadership positions in the FTSE 350 taken by women. “That’s exactly why the everywoman in Travel Awards are so important. The inspiring women I met today are driving change across the industry, paving the way for other women to follow their lead.”


*The status of women in UK Travel Industry (AWTE)

**Women Airline Pilots (Centre for Aviation)

***Examining the pipeline (everywoman)