Why these ambitious ladies of leisure believe they can fly

Feminine front: the all-female staff at American Holidays

Girl power is no fad. Women are now asserting themselves in all walks of life.

Girl power rules at one of Northern Ireland’s busiest travel agents. In what would have been unthinkable a few years ago and still very much a rarity today, all 17 members of staff at American Holidays in Lombard Street are female.

And the all-girl team are proving that sisters can do it for themselves by raking up impressive year-on-year sales despite the huge hit to the travel industry by the recession.

While this may be something of an extreme example, according to one expert, recruitment in recent years has been largely female driven.

Tracy Black, Director of TRP (The Right People) says: “I have been in the recruitment industry for over 15 years specialising in temporary recruitment, from ad hoc cover to mass oversees recruitment drives.

“Recruitment is female dominated, particularly in the temporary sector, where one consultant/manager is responsible for volume staff, management, admin, as well as clients at any one time.

“It does not surprise me that American Holidays is female dominated as the nature of business requires volume administration, excellent client relations, a great eye for detail and the understanding of what the customer wants.

“Women excel in a variation of roles but particularly those that demand managing a multitude of tasks at the same time and with our natural gifts of multi-tasking we develop and can move up the corporate ladder. “

While American Holidays manager Karen Shiels has only praise for male colleagues in the travel industry, she believes her all-girl team brings some special qualities to the job.

“It’s pure coincidence that we don’t have a single man on the team but that said, women do seem to excel in our industry which I think is largely down to the fact that women make better listeners and by nature are more intuitive and can pick up on signals.

“I think women are more sensitive and attentive to know what people need in a holiday and are better listeners.

“We don’t have a great staff turnover and once people are in the door they tend to like to stay.

“We have a great team and it is fun that we are all girls together. We have mums and single girls, a real mix and we range in age from 22 to 39 and are all very close and can quite openly discuss any personal problems we have between each other. We also are great friends and would socialise outside of the office.”

The company which has a head office in Dublin specialises in holidays to American, Canada and the Caribbean.

Karen has been with the Belfast office for 17 years when she has worked with male colleagues: “The male sales people I have worked with in the past have been extremely good but with an all woman team, I can see how being a wee bit more intuitive, women are a little bit more sensitive to customers.

“Sales have been good and although last year we felt the impact of the recession recently sales have increased.

“We get the job done but we also have fun. It is a girly office and we do support each other which does make work easier for all of us.”

Tracy believes that women still have to work harder to prove their capabilities and she personally has experienced this in the male dominated recruitment industry.

She says: “Growing and promoting a new name in recruitment is difficult enough in today’s economic climate; but a woman in a male dominated environment must work to the maximum to prove her capabilities.

“The fruits of my labour come when I succeed in not only obtaining a new client but when I earn their trust.”

Dealing in the temporary sector, Tracy recruits and manages mainly women where she says a woman’s organisational ability proves a great tool in keeping on top of the endless administration related to volume recruitment.

“I have managed over 30 women throughout the years and watched them diversify, grow, develop and earn money.

“Being a mother, I can tend to ‘mother’ my staff to a certain degree, caring about their decisions and advancement, giving them my knowledge to help them move through life

“I believe women have a natural ability to ‘care and nurture’, and for me, filtering this onto my applicants ensures their loyalty and happiness in the workplace, gaining us referrals. To me a happy worker is a productive one.

“A very powerful lady in recruitment taught me that we all need lists and I find women in particular enjoy not only living by them but feel a certain sense of power in ticking and completing our lists gives us a sense of control and achievement. “

Defining girl power

  • Girl power was a phrase made popular by the Spice Girls pop group in the mid 1990s
  • Others to follow suit were the Welsh indie band Helen Love and pop-punk duo Shampoo who released an album and single called Girl Power
  • The Oxford English Dictionary went on to give the phrase ‘girl power’ even further credence when it defined it as “a self-reliant attitude among girls and young women manifested in ambition, assertiveness and individualism”

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