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It’s time for employers to acknowledge that employees face vastly different threats to their personal safety while traveling for work, depending on sexual orientation, gender, and age. More needs to be done to support them as they travel the globe on behalf of their companies.

 According to new research commissioned by SAP Concur about the experiences of business travelers, personal safety is clearly the biggest stress-point. Overall, nearly 60 percent of travelers reported having changed their plans because they felt unsafe, and 52 percent cited traveler safety as the most valuable training their company should provide.

What really stands out are the experiences of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Ninety-five percent of LGBTQ+ travelers say they have hidden their sexual orientation while travelling. The most common reason given is to protect their safety. Eighty-five percent have changed travel arrangements as a result, compared to just 53 percent of their non-LGBTQ+ colleagues.

I’ve flown over 79,000 miles and visited 25 cities in seven countries — this year alone. I found the survey responses provided by female travelers upsetting, but unfortunately, not surprising. More than 77 percent have experienced  harassment or mistreatment while traveling. Forty-two percent say they have been asked if they’re traveling with their husband. Nearly 40 percent have been ignored by service workers, and just under one-third have been catcalled on the job. Distressingly, younger business travelers appear to receive even worse treatment with generation Z women reporting higher instances of negative treatment.

I’ve had personal experiences in this area. In 2007, when I was on a business trip in Orlando, I had just returned to my hotel’s lobby. Upon getting into an elevator, a colleague quickly shuffled in after another person, whom I assumed was another guest. That colleague exited the elevator with me, explaining, “You didn’t realize it, but I was walking almost a block behind you and noticed a troubled-looking man clearly following you. He pursued you right into the hotel and into the elevator, and so I ran here to walk you to your room.” 

As the leader of a team of hundreds of marketing professionals located across the globe, who come from all walks of life, my concern for their safety is one of the things that worries me most. But I have to admit, even with years of experience as a business traveler, and as the manager of large and diverse teams, I wasn’t fully aware of the scope of unequal experiences that LGBTQ+ people have on the road until I read our survey results. I count myself among those who need to do more to help them feel safe.

I am also concerned by gaps in assistance employees receive from their organizations. Sixty-seven percent of respondents believe their company lags in adopting the latest technologies to make business travel easier. In fact,  94 percent of travelers are willing to share personal information to improve their business travel experience. 

Our survey also uncovered other concerns business travelers have beyond personal safety, but I want to focus on that.

Employers need to do more—executives, people managers, and corporate travel managers should read this report and consider how they can better support their employees who are on the road.  A variety of resources, products, and services available can help employers keep track of, and provide services to, employees while they travel:

  • Audit travel policies to ensure company guidance is effective, inclusive, and prepares all employees – regardless of sexual preference, age, or identity – for any situation they might encounter while traveling . For example, workplaces should provide guidance on how transgender employees can navigate airport security and obtain a passport. SAP Concur produced an e-book on, how women can stay safer on the road. These tips need to be readily available.
  • Help employees understand — in advance — the safety of locations in which they might book a hotel. TripIt Neighborhood Safety Scores provide granular detail into neighborhood safety. The U.S. Department of State also provides automatic advisories to alert travelers of potential threats to international trips.
  • Establish two-way communication using travel risk management solutions that allow organizations to quickly deploy emergency support and services. As an example, Uber’s emergency button connects business travelers with 911 and automatically populates a driver’s car make and model, license plate, and GPS location.
  • Train employees to proactively protect themselves while planning and engaging in travel. I also encourage employers to check out guidance for assisting LGBTQ+ travelers, such as that provided by the National Center for Transgender Equality and The Human Rights Campaign.

Whether your teams travel across the country or around the world, they work hard to represent your interests. The time is now to let your employees know — especially those who face discrimination while traveling — that you have their back.

Last modified on Tuesday, 03 December 2019
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Kim Albrecht

Albrecht Kim

Kim Albrecht is a global marketing leader with 30 years leading data-driven marketing strategies. She is chief marketing officer at SAP Concur and is also interim leader of the SAP Lines of business Marketing Team. She leads multi-national marketing teams responsible for omni-channel product marketing, digital, brand, communications, customer success, demand generation and market-expansion. 

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