Don’t Wish Me Happy International Women’s Day, Do This Instead

The most sobering statistic on March 8 is this: “In 2022, American women earned $0.82 for every $1.00 earned by men,” according to the latest Pew Research Center survey—up *two cents* from 2002.

Travel and tourism is not exempt from that unequal treatment. I’d say the gap is even wider in certain segments of the industry. There’s an even bigger problem paying women of color what they are worth, from hospitality to major tour companies and the media.

I speak from experience.

I  had a job once where I discovered  that I was being paid 25% less than a white male colleague for the duration of my time there. Same job, similar responsibilities, same commitment. A job I was beyond qualified to execute.

I brought years of writing and reporting experience. As with everything I work on, I poured 150% energy into it because I care, and because as women of color we are constantly expected to prove more, even after they hire us. The duties piled on but the pay was never adjusted. I also brought in the highest reader views for my employer; hard data that no one could deny. Yet it turned out I was the least paid among my peers, by a whole quarter percent.

Let me tell you what I know for sure: It is soul crushing to find out you are being deprived of economic growth and prosperity merely based on your gender and the color of your skin. It is cruel and unacceptable for an employer to do so—but many leaders of all races in the industry do it.

So here’s my ask to travel industry colleagues on this March 8th: Don’t let the buck stop at wishing me and other women a happy international women’s day. Instead, use your privilege as a male in the travel industry to be transparent with your female peers about your salary and pay levels and perks.

Normalize the discussion on pay and privilege and embrace transparency so that women can be in a position to make better decisions for themselves and prosper equitably as much as (white) male counterparts.

By being transparent with me at the time about his salary, my male colleague was acting in the interest of equality and equity—and it clarified my decisionmaking for the better, which in turn also changed my career for the better, placing me on a course that I could not have predicted at the time.

We hear of the importance of collaboration almost daily in this industry. Why doesn’t that apply to collaboration among male and female colleagues on what matters most: our livelihoods, and our chances at a better future?

When women around the world are paid equally, and especially women of color, then maybe… maybe then, I’ll celebrate International Women’s Day.


Lebawit is an award-winning, independent travel journalist, author and speaker specializing in global tourism. Her reported stories on sustainability, equity, destination management, hospitality, responsible marketing, and climate action have appeared in consumer and trade publications, including Bloomberg, Skift, and Conde Nast Traveler. Read more about Lily here.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Wish Me Happy International Women’s Day, Do This Instead”

  1. Lily – as always, hits the nail right on the head. There is no ‘beating about the bush’ with her and that shows enormous strength of personality and character, the very aspect that I have come to learn about her in the time we have known one another.

    Perhaps because we are like-minded.

    I do not employ men or women. Never have – Never will.

    I employ the best person for the job. And irrespective of ANYTHING, that person will be paid according to experience and what they can bring to the table that will enhance the team and the company which is ultimately to the benefit of everyone. There is not a soul wandering this planet that can state that I did not treat everyone on an equal level and as long as I am in the world of business, so too shall I retain that philosophy.

    Finally, from whence I come, (I did then and still do today), if a team member becomes a parent, they get 3 months of fully paid leave of parental absence in addition to 20 work days annual leave.

    Till my last breath, equal we all will be. The only exception to the rule is if you are a nasty person with a very out-of-tune moral compass.

    Lily – your piece, as always, is captivating, precise, and morally appropriate in every sense.

    Warm wishes – Kenn

    Lily – I stand alongside you

    • Kenneth, thank you for taking the time to share here and for your support! I have come to respect you a great deal as well so this means a lot. There are few who stand up for integrity and equality in this industry and you are one of them. Thank you!


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