Women feel less safe than men when travelling for business

8 March, 2023

While businesses across the world are championing its female leaders on International Women's Day, new research finds that women travellers are more likely to take measures to protect their safety during business travel than men.

On a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and a focal point in the women's rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women, the findings from global travel risk management organisation, World Travel Protection, highlights that there remains a big gap in equality.

Almost three-quarters of women believe travelling for work as a woman is less safe than travelling as a man

According to the Opinium survey of 2,000 business travellers in Australia, Canada, United States and United Kingdom, commissioned by World Travel Protection, almost three-quarters of women business travellers (71%) believe travelling for work as a woman is less safe than travelling as a man.

Almost one in three (31%) say they do not travel or go out on their own at night, compared to 18% men, and almost half (46%) always stay in close touch with family and friends so their whereabouts are known, compared to 36% of men.

Almost one in five (19%) women business travellers also feel their organisation should act with women's safety in mind when they are travelling alone, for example ensuring that flights do not arrive late at night.

Global women's equality issues are also of greater concern to women than men with over one in three (36%) saying they do not like travelling to countries where women's rights aren't protected, compared to only 15% of men.

Men and women are taking extra steps to protect accommodation security

Interestingly, in their hotel or accommodation, both men and women take extra steps to protect their security, for instance placing a chair or obstacle against the hotel door to deter a potential intruder (16% both men and women), and using room service so they don't have to eat in a restaurant on their own (17% both men and women).

Moreover, one in five women business travellers (21%) prefer to stay in hotels that make provision for solo women travellers and a similar proportion (19%) wear a wedding ring (real or fake) to avoid unwanted attention.

One in ten women business travellers report negative incidents

Over one in ten women business travellers (12%) have unfortunately experienced a negative incident, ranging from minor theft to assault when travelling, and one in ten (10%) have been unwell with a women's health problem while travelling but felt unable to get help because of the stigma around women's health issues.

Women have different safety considerations to men

Kate Fitzpatrick, regional security director, EMEA at World Travel Protection, says women often have different safety considerations to think about when travelling for work with the risk generally increasing in countries with less equality.

"It's essential, therefore, that women have a full understanding of the cultural norms in their destinations from what to wear to how they act," she says.

Gender bias remains an issue in many countries

As well as safety considerations, women business travellers also may face gender bias in some cultures where it's not the norm to have women in senior roles.

"I've personally experienced sexism and push-back because of my gender. People are surprised to meet a woman director of security, and whether it is a police chief in South America or a site risk inspection in West Africa, I regularly have to detail my past work in security and government law enforcement to give me credibility, something which my men colleagues never have to do, Ms Fitzpatrick noted.