Women 1st, the initiative that aims to increase the representation of women on boards across the hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism industries, announced the launch of new corporate membership schemes to help businesses take proactive steps to redress the gender imbalance at the top. Bourne Leisure, which operates three of the UK’s most successful holiday brands – Haven Holidays, Warner Leisure Hotels and Butlins – has become the first company to sign up to the new membership scheme.

With access to Women 1st’s world class training and mentoring programmes, corporate membership enables businesses to join a growing list of outstanding companies. They become “employers of choice” for women and are recognised as champions of diversity. Other benefits include discounted and free tickets to the annual Women 1st Conference.

Sue Davies, head of human resources at Bourne Leisure, commented: “We are working hard to increase gender balance in our leadership team at Bourne Leisure and create a diversity culture from the top down. A number of our female employees have undertaken Women 1st training and we have been delighted with the results, but we recognise that there is no ‘quick fix’ to increasing gender balance. We’re pleased to be forging this ongoing partnership with Women 1st to support the wider diversity agenda.”

Following its inaugural conference, held earlier this year, Women 1st has seen a rise in interest from businesses wanting to support their female staff who are keen to secure senior leadership roles. Women 1st is the brainchild of sector skills council People 1st, which set up the initiative in 2009 after it found that, whilst almost 60 percent of the hospitality workforce is female, only six percent of board director positions are held by women.

The Women 1st initiative includes the ‘Step Up’ training programme, which instils aspiring leaders with the expertise, confidence and skills needed to become the chief executives and board members of tomorrow. Step Up will now include ‘live’ training sessions to help delegates master networking techniques by attending one of Women 1st’s networking events which are held across the UK. Women 1st also offers a mentoring programme, which matches candidates to senior industry figures so that junior female staff can benefit from expert advice and guidance to progress their careers. Details of these programmes can be found on the new Women 1st website: www.women1st.co.uk

Sharon Glancy, founder of Women 1st, says: “At a time when our industries are crying out for skilled managers and leaders, there are thousands of talented women who can step up to the plate – but they need the right support. Our membership programmes are designed to give businesses the opportunity to give female staff the skills, confidence and inspiration so they can feel empowered to take their careers to the next level.

“Boardroom diversity is moving up the political agenda and there are a number of enlightened businesses taking proactive steps to bridge the gender gap. Joining us demonstrates their commitment not only to their industry, but to the most important asset they have – the women working in their organisation.”