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Women short on safety advice for work travels
Rick Gangwani
update on Saturday, September 17, 2011
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A global survey by International SOS has found that most Asia-Pacific companies do not provide specific travel-safety advice for female staffers. This is daunting because "women are often perceived as easier targets," says Penelope Kinch, the firm's deputy managing news editor for travel security services. "They're more likely to fall victim to handbag theft, sexual harassment and sexual assault."

Of the 120 Asia-Pacific poll respondents, 57 per cent said their organisation did not provide unique travel advice for female staff, while 15 per cent said their companies intended to do so.

Though the reasons for this in Asia are varied, Kinch suggests they may relate to a failure to keep pace with the rising numbers of female travellers. "Women now account for 45 per cent of business travellers," she says.

Another explanation may stem from differing perceptions on employee safety.

"Duty-of-care issues may be more pertinent in countries with higher rates of civil litigation," says Kinch. "The US is certainly an example of that, as is Australia and several European countries."

As for the actual extent of risk involved and related contributing factors, Kinch seemed reluctant to espouse any general guidelines pertaining to specific regions or cities - and understandably so.

"The worst thing is to make assumptions about a particular environment," she says. "While countries like Somalia or Afghanistan may be extraordinarily high risk for a range of reasons, the safety incidents that are specific to women can just as easily happen in New York or London as they can in Mogadishu or Kabul."

The type of job function, meanwhile, is equally difficult to assess in terms of risk level, notes Kinch, but those who travel frequently, such as flight attendants, remain statistically more likely to encounter harm.

More important, the editor notes, is the range of activities a woman is engaged in during her trip. "As an example, a position that requires a woman to go out at night - particularly to social events and things - tends to carry greater risks," she says.

According to Kinch, much of the risk involved can be mitigated by providing women with sufficient travel budgets to select appropriate hotels and transportation.

Above all, however, she suggests providing staff with the necessary background details about their intended destination, in particular, information pertaining to local norms and customs. 

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