International Women's Day 2022 - meet the team

ABTA strives to create an environment where women feel they can achieve their goals. With over 70% of our staff being female, and half of the Senior Leadership team being women, ABTA has taken actions to ensure that they get the training and support they need to progress in their careers.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022 is #BreakTheBias and ABTA sees value in a diverse and equitable workforce where women are given the opportunity to shine. We will continue to ensure that the right support is given to develop female staff and promote women’s equality within the industry. Here are three women who work at ABTA.

Carolyn Watson, Director of Finance

  • What does your role take care of at ABTA?

Until recently I was Director of Finance and Operations, but I have just started working part-time as Director of Finance. I am responsible for all the money! My role is making sure that ABTA generates income and then spends it wisely providing the services that ABTA Members need from us, and that we do this effectively, efficiently and legally.

I am also a director of our two subsidiaries, Travelife (our hotel sustainability business) and ABTA Insurance PCC (our Captive insurance company based in Guernsey). I was also previously responsible for ABTA’s support services (HR, Facilities, IT, CRM, Business Planning).

  • How has ABTA supported you in your role?

Over the years ABTA has supported me in developing my leadership skills providing training and opportunities to grow and widen my responsibilities across other areas than just finance. More recently, ABTA has given me the flexibility to be able to work part-time so that I can pursue other personal and professional goals.

  • How do you empower your team members? 

On a day-to-day basis, I empower my team members by setting the direction, then giving them the freedom to get on with their jobs without me sticking my nose in! I try to be approachable, and there to support and guide as necessary. It’s all about trust and communication. Empowerment is also about providing opportunities to develop and thrive and I actively work with my team members so that they can work towards fulfilling their aspirations, whatever they may be. I try to be a role model, a champion, a facilitator, and an unblocker of obstacles. Several people who have worked for me in the past have been very successful in their careers and I hope I played a small part in helping them to be successful.

  • Why is ABTA a good place to work? 

I’ve been at ABTA for over ten years now, so it must be doing something right! ABTA is a great place to work and that is mainly because of the wonderful people we have here. The culture is very open and friendly, but also very professional. ABTA is big enough to be engaged in a very diverse, interesting, and important range of activities, yet small enough to be able to offer the flexibility of opportunities unlike the more rigid hierarchies of a larger corporate structure. We have the best of both worlds. It is very supportive of those with caring responsibilities including working mothers, and indeed most importantly working parents, providing the flexibility needed for school pick-ups, sick children, holidays, etc.

  • Why is it important that we support IWD?

As a mother of three, two of whom are now amazing young women (my son is obviously fabulous too, but this is International Women’s Day!), I think it is important to support IWD; I’ve witnessed some fantastic advances over my working life, but we’re not there yet in this country, and certainly not internationally. So, we do need to continue to actively call out gender bias until we have a workplace, a country, and indeed a world where difference is celebrated and not a barrier.

Ruth Rooney, CRM and Systems Development Manager

  • What does your role take care of at ABTA?

I manage the continual development of ABTA’s CRM and integrate systems in line with the IT roadmap. My working day can vary from having to complete development work using Microsoft technologies, to running requirement workshops.

  • Have you experienced any challenges as a woman working in IT and how have you overcome them? 

I have been incredibly lucky in my journey to have been surrounded by supportive and hardworking individuals but there have been some scenarios of course that have been challenging. In all the places I have worked, the IT team has been predominantly men, which is quite standard across the board, well, in my experience anyway. 

When I began my career, there were times I felt intimidated being the only woman in the room and presenting or explaining things. I experienced feeling excluded in my mid-20s from conversations from an all-male IT working group because I wasn’t considered ‘senior’ enough to be involved in the decision-making process (even though I was on the same pay grade as most of them), but I could bring in their teas and coffees no problem. This wasn’t the working environment I wanted to be part of. I confided in a previous boss, one of the kindest blokes I’ve ever met, who listened to me about what I was experiencing and provided me advice in addressing the situation.

Anyone who knows me probably knows, I’d have a different response to that situation now but that’s only because I’ve spent the past eight years learning within the industry, growing, gaining confidence, and figuring out who I am in the IT world with the help and support of incredible mentors, work colleagues, and friends. 

  • How has ABTA supported you so that you feel included?

I have felt incredibly included and listened to at ABTA. A big part of that is having Mark McDonald, Head of IT as a managerial role model who not only encourages his staff to succeed but also appreciates us all as individuals. There is rarely a day at ABTA where I don’t laugh which I think is tremendously important especially over the past two years when we all needed a regular big ole belly laugh to get us through the day.

Lorraine Mushekwa, Risk & SPS Executive

  • What’s does your role take care of at ABTA?

I take care of all areas related to Risk and Brand Protection & the Single Payment Scheme. I help with all queries relating to Liability Insurance, Travel Ledger and Brand protection.

  • How has ABTA supported you with your flexible working requests and what effect has it had on your life? 

Being a new mum in a pandemic, my return to work from maternity leave was very unusual, to say the least. However, ABTA has been very understanding of the difficult circumstances everyone has been facing. ABTA has been very flexible and accommodating which made life that little bit easier during the pandemic, which was a difficult time. This makes me feel proud to work for an organisation that understands their staff’s wellbeing and needs and the importance of balancing life between work and home.