We Travel For Women+: Sophia Hyder Hock, Destinations International
Live from: Washington, U.S.
I’m the Chief Diversity Officer for Destinations International. We have over 650 destination members in 22 countries. In this role, I work on helping our members create spaces and places that champion welcoming and belonging for all.
My career in tourism started with an idea I pitched and won crowd favorite at Triangle Startup Weekend for Women in Raleigh, NC, in 2014. The culture preparedness app sparked a lot of dialogue about the need for more authentic connection. I transformed this concept into a business dedicated to designing DEI strategy and training opportunities in the travel industry – an idea predicated upon my experiences as a solo female traveler of color.
Being a newcomer to the travel industry and owning a business focused on social inclusion were major challenges that I faced for a long period of time. It took a lot of time to build trust and to shift mindsets towards the importance of creating spaces that champion welcoming and belonging. This work is ongoing and will never stop.
My experience as a female in the industry has been positive; I’ve always been determined to set clear boundaries to be able to express who I am and what I stand for. As a mother there have been obstacles to overcome with finding reliable care, coordinating schedules, and communicating while I’m away. While I have been fortunate to have a strong support system and support from my organization, I feel like there are still societal stigmas associated with being a working mom that I need to overcome.
Overall I’m grateful for the community of women that I have in this industry, and I feel supported on many levels. I do think we have a lot of work to do with respect to supporting women with young families, to encourage spaces that help women thrive in their professional career while raising a family. I also believe we need greater representation from women of color and different backgrounds and abilities.
I have had the privilege of having some really honest conversations with women in the travel industry expressing their challenges, triumphs, and lessons learned. Personal stories that reveal human connection; that level of honesty and reflection inspires me to continue to do the work that I am so passionate about. I am also grateful to receive messages of encouragement and general check-ins just to say hello. Those moments matter more to me than my friends and colleagues realize.
In the industry, we need to reflect upon our own experiences as women and to get out of our comfort zone to reach out to women of different generations and perspectives to tell our stories of vulnerability and empowerment. Mentoring and acknowledging successes, and supporting each other during tough moments is another great way to empower women in this industry. I believe we all have the ability to be leaders and to create a positive impact – we just have to believe in ourselves.