Lessons from Fox World Travel

Fox World Travel, a male-owned company, has never been on a mission to place more women in leadership roles. Yet today, women make up half of the company’s leadership team and hold 74% of all leadership positions. Nearly two-thirds of women in leadership positions at Fox have been promoted from within.

This is what happens when you invest in the growth and development of your employees, commit to breaking down barriers to women’s advancement, and reap the business benefits of bringing diverse voices to the table. , according to Audra Mead, culture director.

“It really wasn’t the result of strategic planning. It’s really organically driven by our leadership team,” Mead said.

In 2021, WINit by GBTA recognized Fox’s positive track record of upward mobility for female employees by presenting the company with an award of excellence for “creating a corporate culture that empowers women to advance and to succeed”.

Fox World Travel is jointly owned by CEO Chip Juedes and his father, David Juedes, son of the company’s founder. Based in Oshkosh, WI, the travel retailer was established in 1960 and has 220 employees, 85% of whom are women. Its business mix is ​​80% corporate, 15% leisure and 5% meetings and incentives.

travel market report spoke with Mead to learn more about Fox’s approach to filling leadership roles. Here is an edited version of our conversation.

Why is the promotion of women in leadership roles important?
Mead: Women leaders in positions of influence are excellent role models, which is critical to the career advancement of women.

We believe that gender inclusion translates to more organizational success. Having a diversity of voices in the business discussion is invaluable. It generates a more diverse view for an organization in decision-making and strategic planning and provides a broader and clearer picture. I think it made us more innovative.

Why is the advancement of women to leadership particularly important in the travel industry?
Mead: The majority of associates or employees in the industry are women. But when you look at leadership positions, it doesn’t reflect that.

What are the obstacles ?
Mead: Culture is one of the – societal barriers. It’s also barriers inside oneself [company] culture and not recognizing where the barriers are for women who want to advance in their careers.

We talk about flexibility, which should be a table stake at this stage after the epidemic. This was a big hurdle for many women who wanted to move into leadership positions – flexibility was not there; he was not supported within the organization.

What has Fox World Travel done to advance women into leadership?
Mead: We actively seek internal talent for promotion opportunities, encouraging associates to step outside their comfort zone to enhance and enrich their careers.

A big part of that is succession planning – seeing what we have internally and how we can invest in those associates to advance their careers. We get a return on investment because we retain the talent and knowledge to move forward.

It starts with us hiring the best person for the job. It’s really about making sure that there are no barriers or impediments to the advancement of women.

What else is important for your approach?
Mead: Invest time to have conversations with individual employees: what do they want? What are they afraid of? “I don’t want to go because of X, Y, Z.”

Let us understand this and, if we can, eliminate those [obstacles] by providing internal support through our learning and development team. And by encouraging networking inside and outside our industry, finding mentors and coaching.

Let’s understand what are the things that can uplift women who have this desire to advance in their careers.

Tell more about these conversations with individual employees.
Mead: We expect all of our leaders to have one-on-one conversations with each of their direct reports at least once a month. The conversation really needs to happen all the time, because opportunities present themselves throughout the year.

It is important to know where the best performers are. Where should we invest? What opportunities are people looking for? Especially now, when retention is key, those conversations are incredibly important.

It’s through these conversations of ‘What do you want from your career? Would you be interested in a management position? Maybe, maybe not.

So what kind of opportunities can we give them to see if this is something they want to do? Is it being a project manager, where they are responsible for a team of people? Research and create SOPs and standard operating procedures? Train new associates? How can we enrich their current position? What skill sets do we need to hone before they are ready?

Then, when the position is ready, reach out. Then we put them through the whole interview process.

It doesn’t stop there. How do we continue to invest in it through our learning and development team, maybe attending some meetings, being part of committees? It’s that constant conversation, focusing on their needs and the needs of the organization and how to match them.

Do these conversations extend to your frontline call center staff?
Mead: Yes. These individual touchpoints for engagement purposes are critical for every position.

A good example is that we’ve seen two women rise from front-line support roles to positions on Fox’s executive team during their 30 years at Fox. Since day one of this year, we have had three active supervisors promoted to leadership positions – all three are women, all three were in support or agent/advisory type positions.

What’s left for Fox to do?
Mead: We can do a better job of career pathing and career development, in all positions. We are working on a plan for a more formal mentorship program and a stronger, more in-depth leadership development program.

What is your advice to owners of small travel agencies?
Mead: Recognize the obstacles that need to be overcome. Have these conversations with individual associates. What do they want and what can we offer them? What are the obstacles ? It costs nothing – it takes time, but it is time so well spent.

You don’t need to have a lot of money to find free webinars. Is there a strong female leader in the organization who would be a great mentor or someone from outside the organization?

And allow that to be part of the conversation. It’s a big thing. Maybe organizations don’t talk about advancing women, diversity and promoting inclusivity, because they don’t know how or it’s taboo.

What can we learn from your example?
Mead: The takeaway would be to make sure we take the opportunity to change the equation, to confront all of the persistent barriers to women’s advancement, both at the organizational level and at the individual level. It is recognizing what counter-productive norms exist within an organization.

It encourages women to have mentors and coaches, provides educational and training resources necessary for success, provides opportunities to excel, and recognizes women’s leadership strengths.

And then fostering the environment that gives women who want to progress opportunities to learn and grow, to pave the way for them or help them. It’s really investing in your own people and acknowledging what each of them brings to the table.

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