Technology can make business trips safer – particularly for women and LGBTQ travelers

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It’s time to come to terms with the reality that those in your organization who travel for business have vastly different experiences related to personal safety, depending on their gender and sexual orientation. Fortunately, technology can play a role in helping organizations support their employees during business trips.

The data is clear: According to a recent study from SAP Concur, 58% of business travelers have changed their travel arrangements in the past year because they felt unsafe. That means more than half of employees have felt afraid while traveling for work.

The issue is even worse for women and LGBTQ travelers who navigate varying biases and threats as they travel. The majority of women (77%) have faced harassment and discrimination on business trips, such as being asked if they’re traveling with their husband, ignored by service workers or even catcalled. And nearly all (95%) of LGBTQ+ travelers have hidden their sexual orientation, primarily to protect their safety.

We can and should do better – especially in the age of advanced technology – to support all employees as they travel as part of their jobs. 

A year ago, I predicted female traveler safety would rise to the top of corporate agendas. While we indeed saw progress, employers are not moving fast enough. In 2020, a larger group of employees, including LGBTQ+ travelers, will expect companies to do more.

They will look for more training and tools to keep them safe on business trips so they can do their job effectively.

Traveler safety resources

In 2020 and beyond, companies need to modernize their traveler safety offerings for employees. The first step is revisiting travel policies to ensure safety tips and resources are clearly outlined for travelers. Policies should include tailored guidance for women and LGBTQ travelers and be regularly distributed as required reading.

Travel policies should also outline the emergency safety technology available to travelers. A good example is Uber’s emergency button, which allows riders or drivers to call 911, while sending the car’s make and model, license plate and GPS location to dispatchers.

While not all organizations use Uber for Business, it is highly likely their employees use Uber during trips, so they should be made aware of this handy emergency feature.We can and should do better – especially in the age of advanced technology – to support all employees as they travel as part of their jobs.Kim AlbrechtShare this quote

Another option for emergency situations is the U.S. Department of State’s Smarter Traveler app that provides access to the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free service provides travelers with localized safety and security alerts and enables the United States Embassy to contact and aid travelers during emergencies, such as natural disasters, political unrest and lost/stolen passports.

It also helps connect friends and family that are having trouble reaching travelers overseas.

While women and LGBTQ employees face unique challenges while traveling for business, they shouldn’t have to change their meetings to virtual conferences. Companies should provide resources that address their unique traveler concerns.

TripIt offers neighborhood safety scores, powered by GeoSure, showing safety ratings from 1 to 100 for neighborhoods around the world, representing low to high risk.

These cover a variety of categories including aggression toward women – like verbal harassment, physical assault and adequacy of women’s support facilities – as well as likelihood of harm or discrimination against LGBTQ members and level of caution required at location.

What’s next

Recently, I traveled to Japan and received a travel alert that a typhoon was headed toward the island. Without the heads-up, I wouldn’t have known how to protect myself and make the necessary arrangements during my work trip.

In 2020, these kinds of features won’t be considered “added”; they will become an expected and common part of the traveler experience – and there’s more to come.You haven’t signed up for our daily bulletin?!

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Soon, Lyft will predict when travelers are in danger by monitoring rides and noticing if the trip has stopped too soon or for an unusual amount of time. If there is potential danger, drivers and riders will hear from Lyft with an offer of emergency assistance.

In addition, as artificial intelligence reforms enterprise technology, traveler safety technology will become even more advanced.

It’s my hope that we will see things such as AI automatically rebook tickets for locations that have experienced recent safety issues or GPS location tracking that can alert travelers when they are heading into a bad neighborhood.

Employee satisfaction is a hugely important part of any business and as leaders think through their 2020 resolutions, traveler safety should be top of the list.