Are Women Business Travelers Treated Differently?

I am often asked if I am treated differently when traveling because I am a woman. Do I feel pressure to fit into a man’s world, especially as so few business travelers are female?

The first thing I do is correct whoever I am speaking to. Women make up almost half of business travelers, and the number is growing every year.

The rest of the question deserves a little more thought.  I don’t feel any pressure to fit into a man’s world. I do my job, do it very well, and am well able to take care of myself on the road. I know that women of earlier generations had to deal with this pressure on a daily basis, and I am so grateful to them for the barriers they have broken and the strides they have made. In general, the only way I am every treated differently is with regards to safety. For example, many hotels have policies against placing single female travelers on the first floor if there is direct access outside from the room. I understand and appreciate this concern for my safety, but I would prefer to be given the option rather than told there are no rooms available. Once, a colleague decided to travel with me at the last minute. I was staying in a well-known hotel chain, and she was told there were no rooms available. Once I arrived, I spoke to a different person and was told that there were in fact rooms available, but these rooms were on the first floor and the hotel had strict guidelines in place to not put women traveling alone in those rooms. My colleague should have been alerted to the policy and the reason behind it, and then given the option of whether to book a room or not.

One non-safety related way I have been treated differently is with airlines. I have noticed that airline personnel are often surprised to see a young woman as an Elite traveler. I have often gone to try for an upgrade or standy, and  been told there is no way I will get it as there is a long list. And then I go to the front of the list and get it because of my status. Sometimes it irritates me that they stereotype so quickly, but often it just amuses me.

What about you, readers? Are you treated differently because you are a woman?


  1. Usually at some point in a project the question comes up “so, you don’t have kids…do you?” That question isn’t as pointed when asked to my male coworkers.

  2. I have noticed the stereotypes around elite flyers as well. I am Platinum Elite with Continental and often end up in first class on an upgrade as the only woman in the first class cabin. And sometimes I do feel the flight attendant or other first class passengers are trying to figure out if I snuck into that seat or if I really ‘belong’ there.

  3. In the US, not that much, but when I travel to Asia, I feel that I am sometimes treated differently. Often time, people are surprised to see a woman traveling alone, having dinner alone, etc. One day I was even asked where my boss was (as if there was no way I could be traveling alone and just had to be some man’s assistant). However, sometimes, the extra care and attention can be nice. In some hotels in India I felt that I was treated like a celebrity as I was one of the only woman traveling alone for business 🙂

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