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Powerful Women Need Powerful Spaces — That’s Why We Build Them

Published on September 29, 2015 by Delia Harrington

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Who run the world? Image by Ashley Hufford/Women in Travel Summit by Wanderful.

Many people ask why women need our own spaces, whether they’re physical spaces or online communities like Wanderful.

When is the Men in Travel Summit? Why isn’t this article about men, too?

I’ve spent the last few years reveling in women-only and FTW (femme, trans, and women) spaces, and I’d like to share why.

There is a ton of great travel writing out there that is applicable to all genders, but women have unique experiences abroad. Here at Wanderful, we are able to share that perspective with our community of mostly women travelers. When talking women and travel, safety always comes to mind, and that shouldn’t be underestimated, but the conversation goes beyond that.

Many of us have to deal with the realities of the female body on the road.

Whether that be menstruation, UTIs, reproductive health issues, or our lower tolerance of alcohol.

We often have specific concerns about how to dress that don’t have as much of an impact for men, given the way women’s bodies are scrutinized in public.

Then there are issues like mental health, street harassment, and the way we often occupy a third gender on the road: not as free as men, but not held to the same cultural norms as local women, either. When it comes down to it, having a space to address information that is specific to us is helpful.

Others can, and do, join our community. From in-person meetups to the Women in Travel Summit to our readership, there are men who see value in what we do. That is great, and we are happy to have them, but great content for women will always be our priority.

Unfortunately, sometimes the inclusion of men functionally means a worse experience for women.

We know that girls in single-gender classrooms participate more in class, have higher grades, and occupy more leadership positions than those in mixed gender schools.

We also know that when it comes to writing, men are simply out-publishing women every step of the way — and for dubious reasons.

And don’t even get me started on all-male panels. It seems that if organizations don’t make a concerted effort to include women, like other types of diversity, unconscious bias results in discrimination.

In the Wanderful universe, our ideas, participation, and representation are the priority.

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No all-male panels here! Image by Katie MacLeod.

Really, it shouldn’t be so strange to have spaces exclusively for women’s perspectives in travel. When we look to the travel industry as a whole, 80% of all travel decisions are made by women. And the industry is paying attention. Given these facts, doesn’t it seem like writing travel content with women in mind should be the default?

When you write in an all-women environment, it turns the usual assumptions about the default on their head.

In most writing, “neutral” is really a straight, white, cisgender, upper-middle-class male perspective. Many folks in dominant groups assume that they speak from an unbiased perspective, but that is rarely the case. For example, resources that are supposed to be for everyone most often apply to men, white people, or able-bodied people.

The problem is, if you’re in one of these groups, you become so used to your own experience being represented everywhere that you may not even recognize that the information isn’t relevant to others. I only get my travel safety questions answered in women’s travel spaces now because I’ve been burned too many times by well-meaning advice from men that simply failed to take into account how my experience would be different. So if you’re wondering why we need to specify, consider whether your content and communities are actually as universal as they seem to you.

When we do take women as the default, it allows us to explore the full breadth and depth of experiences of people who identify as women.

We have writers and community members of many different sizes, religions, sexual identities, ethnicities, countries, ability levels, and economic backgrounds. If a publication only has room for a certain number of “women’s articles” per month, then you can bet that white, heterosexual, cisgendered women of a specific class and educational background, and the issues they care about, will get coverage.

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Image by Ashley Hufford/Women in Travel Summit by Wanderful.

This is different in inclusive women’s spaces. We’re not fighting one another for a seat at the table; we own the whole damn table. We’re not forced into false competition with one another for the few column inches allotted to our gender. Instead, we root for one another and support each other. We have a greater diversity of experience, and we use that to make each other’s content better and spread the word farther.

While we like to think of this space as a community, it is also a business, and there are business-related benefits.

Partners and sponsors are able to reach a precise demographic, which makes us a great, targetted fit for many companies and organizations. It also opens us up beyond the travel-specific niche, since women use most everything on the road that they do back home, from clothing and jewelry to books and electronic devices.

One of my favorite things about Wanderful is that everyone here is a #GirlBoss.

Seriously. My editor, my mentor, our social media manager, all my fellow writers, right on up to our founder & CEO are badasses of the lady persuasion.

Too many organizations are lacking women in high-level positions, despite plenty of women in their leadership pipeline. When a woman or minority is brought on to be a new CEO, it’s often in times of trouble, which sets them up to fail. When you’re working in an all-women environment, there are no men to interrupt us; take credit for our ideas; give us a hard time about vocal fry and uptalk; or call us bossy, shrill, aggressive, hysterical, bitchy, or abrasive.

While it’s not a utopia (We interrupt each other constantly during team meetings!), it gets us one step closer to getting down to business.

It’s also a more collaborative environment.

We’re encouraged to ask for help when we need it, and we support each other through the personal and professional highs and lows.

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Squad goals. Image by Kayti Burt/Women in Travel Summit by Wanderful.

While we as individuals have a variety of business models, from digital nomads to hobbyists to folks with desk jobs and side hustles, we encourage each other to take ourselves seriously as high-achieving businesswomen. We coach one another through common obstacles for women, like the pressure to be nice, learning how to say no, putting a more accurate dollar value on our work, and how to negotiate pay without facing backlash.

If you’re still wondering why we need our own space, perhaps it’s time to consider why it matters to you.

Most of the world today, from movies to travel writing, is still geared towards men, even if it’s marketed as neutral — and remember, neutral really means straight, white, male, and at an elevated class standing. Our issues are often excluded or ignored or misrepresented, so women have been carving out our own spaces where our voices matter.

If you enjoy our content, please continue! But if you don’t, please move along — it’s not meant for you, anyway. This is our space, and to quote Amy Poehler, we don’t care if you like it.

I’ve laid out the reasons I find this community to be powerful, but what about you? What do you love about women’s spaces?

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Category: Global Issues

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