Health

Risky Business: Personal Safety During Work Travel a Serious Concern for Women

Professionals share fears — plus precautions they take — to be more aware and productive away from home

For the female workforce, one topic should be serious food for thought: Are you taking enough personal safety precautions during business trips?

More than eight in 10 women report having experienced one or more safety-related concerns or incidents this year while traveling for business, according to new research published in Business Wire and conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.

The study was done in partnership with AIG Travel, an insurance company offering travel protection with locations worldwide.

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Study respondents weren’t asked to share specific details, but what their answers revealed is significant.

“Nearly three-quarters of the women [polled] cite sexual harassment and assault as a concern, 68 percent are concerned about travel to certain countries and cities, and 65 percent are concerned about assault or kidnapping risk,” Amanda Cecil, senior vice president of professional development and research for GBTA, told LifeZette.

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She added, “These high levels of concern have a tangible impact on business travel for women.”

The stress triggered by these dangers also affect productivity during travel.

“AIG Travel feels it is important to shine a light on the unique travel considerations faced by women,” Rhonda Sloan, head of marketing and industry relations, told Business Wire. “The research findings show that many female business travelers are aware of and concerned about the challenges they may face while traveling for work, while employers still have plenty of room to provide more guidance and resources to help women minimize those risks and experience safer travels.”

Cecil agreed. “Ultimately, all travelers want to be productive and get business done, so understanding the specific risks female travelers face on the road can allow ‘travel buyers’ to play a critical role in addressing these concerns,” she noted.

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“’Travel buyers’ is a term used in our industry to describe corporate travel managers or the individual at a company responsible for managing and booking travel for employees,” Marianne Varkiani, manager of communications for GBTA, told LifeZette.

Varkiani noted that, according to their research, less than one-fifth (18 percent) of travel policies specifically address “the safety and security of female business travelers.”

Additionally, when companies provide travel safety training, that training does not usually include female-specific content.

Of the companies that do provide training, 30 percent say the training includes female-specific content, while almost half (48 percent) say their training does not include it.

Women are generally more cognizant of their personal safety, said Cecil, and businesswomen in particular may apply this consciousness to their travel procedures.

“Safety and security are major considerations for all travelers, but the fact remains that women face different, if not greater, risks while traveling for business,” she said. “Our research findings show that women take special safety precautions when they travel for work, both before and during their business trips.”

She added, “Over half of women regularly communicate with the office, family or friends while traveling, 45 percent research the safety of their travel destination, and 44 percent make an effort to book a daytime departure or arrival. While we encourage female business travelers to take special precautions, companies should ultimately be held responsible; they should be aware of the risks that female travelers face on the road and make efforts to address and mitigate these risks.”

Amy Webster of Lake Worth, Florida, worked for Hollander Sleep Products, headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, as vice president of merchandising. Her position required extensive travel, including trans-Atlantic trips.

“Hollander made travel safety guidelines a priority,” she told LifeZette. “We traveled in pairs or groups. We were instructed during long layovers to use the airline’s ‘club,’ so we were protected from the mass of general airport travelers.”

She added, “We were counseled to not eat at the bar at the hotel but to use room service, as a precaution. If we arrived at any destination during the evening, we were directed to valet, rather than park and walk to the hotel entrance.”

Webster also placed the weight of security training on the employer, and agreed agencies involved in air travel — such as the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) — should also bear responsibility in training their teams to be aware of the well-being of female travelers.

Beth M. (real name not given) from Boise, Idaho, travels solo for her consulting business; she shared some practical travel tips.

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“I make an effort to stay at the same hotel on repeat visits,” she told LifeZette. “I learn the names of the hotel employees to develop familiarity.”

She also asks a manager to escort her back to her room if she decides to dine in the hotel restaurant.

These smart measures can be lifesavers to any woman business traveler. Conscious thought, an awareness of one’s surroundings, and keeping in touch with family and friends can help lower the statistics the GBTA and AIG study shared — while improving the safety and peace of mind of women business travelers worldwide.

See more in the video below.

Based in Boynton Beach, Florida, Christine King is founder and CEO of Your Best Fit, a health and wellness company that provides fitness, nutrition, and design and management services.

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