Women have always been a part of the world of technology and FTS truly believes that diversity starts with recruitment. Below is an interview with Sylvie Hachey, currently Head of product at Flight Centre Travel Group and Flex Travel Solutions’ advisor.
Sylvie shares with us her journey of 17 years in travel technology and the importance of gender diversity at the workplace — “it’s much more collaborative when you have both [men and women]. There’s more of a diversity of ideas.”
How did you get started in the travel technology field?
I got into travel tech quite by accident. I applied at Expedia in 2005, even though I wasn’t sure what Expedia was, and had to Google the company. It was for a connectivity account management role. We basically connected hotel supply to Expedia. There were only two of us globally who did that work.
As a woman in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, did it feel like you were breaking through a barrier?
Honestly, it didn’t. At Expedia, it never felt as if there was a gender bias, and I think it was a good travel tech company to start at. Higher up, there were more men than women in senior leadership roles, but it wasn’t something that defined the company.
“Don’t be afraid to go for it”
What are the disadvantages and advantages of being a woman in tech?
There are definite advantages to being a woman in travel tech. Women are fundamentally multitaskers, so they can focus on many things and still be exceptionally organized.
I also think it’s a good balance when you have both men and women on a team. Compared to groups I’ve seen that were mainly men or mainly women, it’s much more collaborative when you have both. There’s more of a diversity of ideas.
According to a 2021 Royal Bank of Canada report, almost half a million Canadian women who left the workforce during the pandemic, primarily due to childcare issues, have not returned to work. What are your thoughts on that?
Honestly, working with small children was a challenge even before the pandemic. Being able to work remotely has been both a blessing and a curse. Having the flexibility to arrange your schedule around your children can help women and families alike. But if you don’t have a support network, it’s very challenging.
I think companies are looking at how they can attract women tech workers through more flexibility, more accommodations for families, and offering a work-family balance. Providing that flexibility and offering education employees can do remotely would bring a lot more women into higher roles in travel tech.
What else could the travel technology field be doing to bring more women into the industry?
Women are still underrepresented, especially at higher levels and in leadership. We need to bring them in when they’re younger. The International Aviation Women’s Association focuses on education for women in the aviation sector. They’ve had a big focus on reaching women when they are young and giving them confidence. It’s also important to accommodate a work-life balance, where women don’t feel like they have to choose one over the other.
What advice would you give to women interested in travel tech?
Don’t underestimate yourself, and have a plan. Having a plan and knowing where you’re going gives you confidence. It’s also important to find someone to work with, either as a mentor or coach, who can help you develop that confidence and find your strengths. That also helps you build relationships. That’s helped me enormously throughout my career.
And don’t be afraid to go for it. I think women often don’t apply for a position because they think they don’t have every single requirement for the job. I have seen women judge themselves and not apply for something a man wouldn’t think twice about applying for. Work with people who help you build your strengths, so you feel capable of moving to higher positions to have the career that you want.