Diana Block-Garcia, senior vice president of Revenue, Sales, and Itinerary at Virgin Voyages, has explained the efforts the cruise line implements to ensure workplace gender equality and inclusivity.
“We’re committed to KPIs to improve and celebrate diversity in our foundation, and it’s foundational to our culture. We have a team that focuses on engaging crew on diversity, equity and inclusion, on issues like race, cultural awareness, and gender issues,” Block-Garcia said at a webinar “Choose to Challenge: Increasing Opportunities for Women in Cruise Tourism” on March 9.
According to her, three out of eight Virgin Voyages’ top leaders are women.
“So, we’re not there yet, we’re not at that equality, but we’re pretty close. And we know we have more work to do,” Block-Garcia said.
Additionally, she said, the cruise line has book clubs to discuss gender equality and racism.
“Over the past six months, we’ve done this through monthly book clubs to engage our crew in difficult conversations around race and gender and to elevate the awareness throughout the company, through internal communications and marketing. And we’ve had people tell personal stories about what it’s like in their careers, in their personal lives, to face some of these challenges overall,” Block-Garcia stated.
During the webinar, Block-Garcia also explained the “Scarlet Squad” program, which was started at Virgin Voyages around two years ago.
“This is a program that focuses on balancing the gender gap in leadership positions and roles and placement, and this is both shipboard and shoreside. But I think we could all agree that the biggest place in the cruise industry where we see this gap is in marina technical leadership positions onboard the ship, so we were very focused on that. The program includes recruiting, supporting, mentoring female talent and really kind of finding people and growing people into these positions and making sure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential,” she said.
The Scarlet Squad program, according to Block-Garcia, consists of six focus areas: recruitment (achieving 50:50 in the male-female ratio onboard and shoreside), competitive policies to attract women to stay in their jobs, mentoring from leaders, strengthening the integration of women on ships and at shipyards, supporting the organizations that promote women, and, finally, attracting women to Virgin Voyages’ cadet program.
“We’re not only looking to find people that already in the industry, but we want to develop future leaders and we want to develop men and women as future leaders. So, we have partnered with Chiltern Maritime to do on-the-job training. As part of our focus on women and gender equality, you will see here that these are our first five cadets and that three of those five cadets are female. And we believe that this type of equality is what will make our company very successful going forward,” Block-Garcia said.