International Women’s Day was celebrated this month on 8 March. It served as a reminder to embrace equity and support women leadership wherever possible. In celebrating the strong, confident, sensitive and compassionate women at Discova and beyond our industry, we decided it would be great to highlight some our incredible leaders.
Discova’s women have and continue to forge the way in exemplary leadership and inspire us to do more for Discova’s female staff and the women in the communities in which we work with. We will also profile some of Discova’s male leadership, the men who encourage, champion and empower women in their teams and personal lives.
We’re kicking off this ‘Women in Leadership’ series with bubbly Eileen Yee, our General Manager for both our China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand Region and Educational Travel team. She brings sincerity, wit, innovation and never-ending enthusiasm.
“I oversee 25 leaders, of which 19 are women. Haha, so the men are a little outnumbered here. This is not uncommon in the travel industry, where you will often find more women in overall staff counts, but it’s less common in leadership structures.”
“What I like about being part of Discova is that we give equal opportunities to all people, regardless of gender. You are respected and encouraged to embrace who you are. Male, female or however you identify.”
“I think that having an even mix of female and male leaders can give a great sense of balance. Though, as it happens, in our team we have more women than men, and with that come different opportunities and leadership styles. In my experience, women leaders tend to be more empathetic and can better understand the obstacles that other women face (whether in their professional or personal lives), and communicate their feelings more openly.”
“Both women and men bring their own strengths to our teams, and I think at Discova we do a great job of learning from each other. Everybody knows that they’re not perfect and that there is always room for improvement, and that means that we’re all very open to innovating and enhancing our leadership styles.”
“The DET team aims to bring a positive impact to all the communities that we get involved with. The goal is to achieve a win-win-win relationship where the communities, the travellers that visit the community, as well as Discova, gain from this collaboration. We facilitate service learning trips for schools and universities, and for travellers who are simply interested in learning more about the people and cultures of the places they visit.”
“We are not an NGO but we ensure that our influence and work with these communities is positive and sustainable. We want to provide the local people with better social and economic opportunities, and that means that they have to be part of this journey. We provide them with the knowledge and skills-set to lead developments projects and tourism activities, so that they are actively engaged in the successes of their communities. It’s particularly rewarding to see this happen in areas where women are marginalised or have previously not had the same economic opportunities as the men in their community.”
In Manggis village, Bali, we have a great example of that transformation. Here the women traditionally took on secondary roles within village and farming life. We saw a gap and developed an organic vegetable-planting initiative with the help of KWT Bakung Asri, a foundation that advocates for female empowerment within Balinese communities, encouraging women to take on leading roles in village life. Today, the women of Manggis have their own farming group and greenhouse, where they produce organic herbs and vegetables for local consumption and for selling to markets outside of the village.
“When we introduce impact and service learning programs for our groups, we ensure that the women of the villages we work with are engaged. Students can learn from them through various tourism activities, like cooking classes, traditional dance lessons and weaving workshops, to name a few.”
“My personal favourite was when we hired the older women of Lac Village in Mai Chau, Vietnam, as dancers for our campfire experience. The students loved it and so did the women (it’s usually a profession which is given to younger women).”
The video below shows just what our DET team has achieved in Mai Chau.
“Another initiative that we have introduced is to raise funds for educational scholarships for the villages that we work with. In remote communities where boys typically have more opportunities than girls for education, this initiative provides girls with an equal chance for education and success in life.”
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