Celebrating International Women’s Day #inspireinclusion, we spoke to Focus Commercial Manager, Hazel Dawson, about her accomplished career in the corporate travel industry and the importance of IWD.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve worked in the corporate travel market now since 1994 .. so a veteran of 30 years. However, prior to this, I guess you’d say travel is in my blood as I was born and brought up in Hong Kong and pretty much as soon as I could afford it, I went travelling either with friends or as a job.

With regards to me personally, I’ve always been ambitious about my career and I’ve always wanted to learn more about how my role can interact with other roles. I’ve never been scared of taking on something new or challenging …. and that’s led me to where I am now – confident, organised and ready to take on new challenges.

Can you name someone who has inspired you and why?

My sister inspires me every single day – she has 5 children from mid-30s down to secondary school age, 2 of which are adopted and both have some form of mental health challenges. She still works as a SENCO at a pre-school nursery and helps every child with special needs to achieve their best into mainstream or special schooling. She adapts to every challenge that’s been thrown at her .. and is so well respected in her local and school community that she’s won awards along the way.

If you could swap lives with someone for a day (fictional or real life) who would that be?

Richard Branson – I would love to experience his passion for business whilst always having that great smile to spur you on to achieving greater goals.

What do you think are the most pressing issues facing women you know at present?

In business, moving the “old boys club” mentality to one of innovation that brings more women to the helm of key businesses. From an employee perspective, being able to juggle family and work is still a concern for many – with the cost-of-living increases, many cannot afford to work and pay for childcare .. so they leave their jobs which creates a skills gap in the industry.

How important do you think mentorship is in empowering women and fostering leadership?

Being of the “older generation”, I love the idea of mentorship .. all through a company .. from the top down, sideways, and upwards in reverse mentoring. Everyone has their own skillset and talents, and they should be encouraged to share skills and ideas across the whole business – today’s newbies are our future leadership team!

Who stands out for you as a leading example in the battle for gender equality?

Virgin Atlantic are the only ones who publicly flaunt this .. and so they should – they embrace diversity, including gender equality .. and it seems to work in their favour.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

Its not one single achievement but I’m super proud of being respected by our TMC Partners, and being given the opportunity to make the role that I do even bigger and better as I move towards my retirement.

What can we all do to celebrate International Women’s Day and help achieve equality and inspire inclusion?

Keep ensuring that female leaders (both senior and middle managers) get the exposure that they deserve in every opportunity … whether through awards, magazine articles, social media or other forms .. keep banging that drum that women make great leaders – bringing strength, empathy and inspiration to each business.

Celebrating International Women's Day Hazel Dawson