In our ongoing celebration of International Women’s Day #inspireinclusion, we spoke to Focus PR & Marketing Exec, Joanne Emerson, about who inspires her, some career experiences, and the significance of IWD.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in South London and moved to Sussex in 2003, I have two fantastic teenage children and a dog & cat. I became interested in travel thanks to some lovely family holidays when I was a child, and I’ve been fortunate to visit some amazing destinations over the years. I’ve worked in the travel industry for most of my career, including tenures with Amex GBT and Uniglobe, apart from a few years in the legal sector and the National Trust – both of which helped broaden my business insight and made me appreciate the corporate travel industry and its people even more!

Can you name someone who has inspired you and why?

There are many. My children inspire me with their resilience, fun and enthusiasm. My Dad has always been a great inspiration, even more so after his determination to quickly recover from a sudden quadruple heart bypass. My husband in growing his business, and some close female friends with their diverse characters and determination to overcome obstacles.

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

Cost of living crisis, work-life balance, pressures to look good, juggle tasks and succeed in all areas, ‘mum guilt’, to name just a few.

Can you share an experience that has helped to highlight the importance of International Women’s Day for you?

There were instances of sexism that I experienced early on that I didn’t realise at the time as there was far less awareness, things like being told by a male manager to use my female charm to get a better deal, being asked in a job interview when I was planning on having kids, and being told that my boyfriend must have a good job as I was moving house and selling my first home (it was all mine)! I think IWD and this year’s theme of inspiring inclusion is a great example of the all encompassing importance of raising awareness of so many types of biases and inequalities, and also how far we have come.

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

It’s a tough one, but I’m going for fictional having recently watched her latest film, Captain Marvel.

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

Extremely important, I wish there had been more female mentors available when I was making career choices and returning to work after maternity leave. I also believe that reverse mentoring has a big part to play in the leadership and success of our multi-generational workplaces, we do this well at Focus and are championing next generation and mentorship at all levels with our TMC Partners.

The travel industry is known as a leading sector in equality, inclusion, and diversity, but how do you think workplaces can continue to achieve more inclusive environments and challenge biases?

We need to live and breathe inclusivity and continue to champion diverse workplace cultures. We also need to become aware of tackling our ‘unconscious biases’ – most of us have them.

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

The acclaimed poet, activist, autobiographer, and Hollywood’s first female black director, Maya Angelou has always stood out for me.

What changes would you like to see for women over the next decade?

Achieving 100% pay equality across all industries. More access to quality education for women around the world. Enhanced support and recognition around menopause symptoms that range from from cognitive, physical and psychological. Increased implementation of policies supporting well-being and work-life balance. Fairer maternity/paternity pay and rights. Further recognition of IWD and everything it promotes.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

Both of my children.

What can we all do to recognise IWD and help achieve equality and inspire inclusion?

Ensure everyone can be heard, respected, and listened to.

IWD Joanne Emerson