, 1er journal des professionnels du tourisme francophone

What is it like to launch a start-up as a woman?

International Women’s Day 2015

In honor of the International Women’s Day, on Sunday, March 8th, 2015, and i-tourisme interviewed the founders of start-ups that have fought on every front: innovation, tourism, entrepreneurship… How do they view their position, what do people around them think? Here are some answers.

Rédigé par Ophélie Surcouf translated by Joséphine Foucher le Lundi 9 Mars 2015

The debate around gender parity is progressing, but what is it really like in the world of tourism start-ups? © Kaspars Grinvalds -
The debate around gender parity is progressing, but what is it really like in the world of tourism start-ups? © Kaspars Grinvalds -
To be or not to be… a woman.

The tourism world is known for being primarily represented by women, but the sector of innovation, new technologies, and start-ups, tends to be more masculine.

So how do women find their place within it?

“At Family Twist, we’re a team of 4 women. But it’s not a choice.

We’ve received lots of resumes from women… and the only recruitment of a man went badly!” laughs Magali Dechelette, the founder of Family Twist, a start-up that organizes customized trips for families.

“It is quite ironic, since we’d really like to hire men. I’ve always thought it was better to have mixed teams.”

The debate around gender parity is progressing, but what is it really like in the world of tourism start-ups?

Innovation is masculine

“There are more women than men in the tourism sector…but not at every position, especially those of higher responsibility,” confides Aline Ducret, founder of Easywelcome, a customized service to welcome travelers.

“The world of Internet, however, is a lot more masculine.

It is really hard to impose your legitimacy and added value within innovation.”

An opinion that Magali Dechelette agrees with: “There is no gender parity.

Family Twist is incubated within Welcome City Lab: amongst the thirty start-ups, three of them are led by women.”

This lack of parity, while it’s a shame, does not seem to disadvantage women.

“It’s all a question of planning!” affirms Sarah Lopez. She co-founded Co-Voyageurs, a start-up that plans trips for solo travelers.

“Management is not about authority, it’s not a power relationship. It’s important to delegate and distribute responsibilities.”

Laurence Onfroy, founder of Tempting Places, a boutique-hotels networks, takes it a step further.

“Being a woman is actually an advantage: men don’t mistrust us really, the don’t see us as competitors.

They’re more open to give advices, help out, or open doors.

At TemptingPlaces, our team is made up of 90% women and we like it!”

Feminine solidarity

“We’ve surpassed the man/woman question: today it’s about personality and energy, explains Aline Ducret.

Because leading a start-up is an activity that spills over into one’s personal life.

As a woman, we often have to do a bit more than others, adapt to our situation, speak louder, look for credibility.

But in return, I have felt a stronger solidarity between female entrepreneurs. In entrepreneurship events, the first barriers are quickly broken, bonds are formed more easily.

In fact, there are numerous associations and groups for women in the innovation sector.

Girls in Tech example, or The Family, a start-up accelerator founded by Alice Zagury.”

As for Laurence Onfroy, she is a member of Femmes du Tourisme (Women of Tourism - translator’s note), an organization that promotes the place of women in tourism professions. The association will celebrate its 10 year anniversary on March, 10th.

“It’s a battle that I am fighting! Many women don’t dare to take risks, but I’m convinced we have no limits.

The only barriers that we are have are those we impose on ourselves. The hardship is learning to not masculinize ourselves and stay true to who we are.”

“I recently read Choisissez tout (Pick everything - translator’s note), written by Nathalie Loiseau, Director of ENA,” confides Magali Boisseau.

“I related to lots of the things she said, especially when she mentions how much the education girls receive differs from that of boys.

To create a company, you have to dare being ambitious. The true difficulty is going for it!”

Being a female student entrepreneur

Mathilde Tenneroni founded l'Hirondelle and sends seniors traveling - (c) L'Hirondelle
Mathilde Tenneroni founded l'Hirondelle and sends seniors traveling - (c) L'Hirondelle
Mathilde Tenneroni, the founder of L’Hirondelle, a start-up that organizes trips for seniors, is a young woman. Both an advantage and disadvantage in the business.

i-tourisme: You are still a student, was it complicated to get into the business of launching a start-up?

Mathilde Tenneroni: « I am an entrepreneur student. Studying while creating a company is not easy: which is why, this year, I’m counting a lot on the help of my associate, until I graduate.

But the difficult part wasn’t so much creating a company, but to get into the tourism sector.

My mother, who worked in the sector and who is now helping me run the company, has been tremendous help.

She gave me confidence, she reassured me: tourism has some very worrying qualities when we don’t know the business well.

For example, it is very difficult to obtain the status of a travel agent…”

i-tourisme: Is being a woman an issue in the world of innovation?

MT: «There are many men in the sector, but no machismo. This is different in tourism, or abroad.

Some meetings can even be quite comical! It’s all about learning to benefit from your advantages.

I don’t know if it’s hard for me because I’m a woman or because I’m young, but sometimes, you have to know how to play the pretty and smart doll to get what you want.

During negotiations, many men will do things for you for no apparent reason… just because you’re a woman!”

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