Behind the Scenes: What’s it like working as a woman in tourism?

It’s been a month of celebrating women and both Women’s Day and Business Women’s Day have rolled by. Why do we celebrate these days for the female gender? Well, globally the gender gap lies at 26.4% in labour and women are still earning 24% less than men (according to the 2015 UN’s ‘Progress of the World’s Women’). With this in mind, what’s the tourism industry in South Africa like?

We interviewed some of the women who work at Jenman African Safaris to see what it’s really like working in a male-dominated industry and in job roles that are usually filled by men in the tourism industry.

Chantel, Tour Manager

As a former guide who’s travelled in southern and East Africa, Chantel is an expert in our team with extensive knowledge about guiding, managing a large group of travellers and routing. When asked about what it’s like to work in a male-dominated industry, she said, “We have many great woman in leadership positions and they are very good at what they do. As a guide I was definitely one of the very few woman who would drive guide and cook on tour all by myself and I have always felt very proud of how the guys in the industry treated me and respected what I could do.”

The challenge of working as a solo guide, and guiding tours through African countries, has mostly been the attitude of the one or other client: “One German tourist exclaimed, ‘But you are a woman!’ to which I replied, ‘Yes, I am. Will this be a problem?’ He said no, and we had a fantastic tour. In fact, it was one of the best.”

Patheka, Workshop Assistant

Patheka moved to Cape Town 11 years ago from the Eastern Cape, and has been working with the mechanics at the Jenman Vehicle and Coach Builders for three years. The workshop where we build our Jenman vehicles is right next door to our headquarters.

‘Patty’ as she is affectionately called by the workshop guys enjoys working with the team of mechanics in the workshop. Most of the team are men. “When you work with men, there’s no stress, no bad moods. They are nice people and I have learnt so much from them.”

Kimberley, Project Co-Ordinator

As a project manager of our lodge portfolio, Kim spends a lot of time on building sites, at City Council to get building plans approved, and in meetings with architects – and of course, in the workshop.

As a woman in a male-dominated society, she had this to say, “I love that the company is an unbiased, equal environment where women are encouraged to grow. We are a female-dominated company in the tourism industry and I believe that’s why we are so successful”.


Milvea, Mechanical Engineer

The newest member of the workshop team, Milvea is the only woman working in the Jenman Vehicle and Coachbuilder workshop. Even though she’s small – the guys are sure to let me know that she’s a strong, reliable team member!

Talking about what she loves about working at Jenman with a team of men, Milvea says, “I’m excited to be around tools, welding, grinding – I’m attracted to dangerous things!” After excelling at Chemical Engineering at high school in Angola, she went on to graduate from CPUT in Mechanical Engineering.

Asked if she’s ever experienced any challenges working in a male-dominated field she says, “When I tell people that I’m the only girl in the workshop, they are often surprised. The only challenge I’ve had is that I was intimidated at first. But then I pushed myself and decided to study engineering. The guys don’t treat me differently at all.”

Milvea makes up for her small stature with her big passion. “I like to solve problems. That’s why I love it here at Jenman.”


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Jenman African Safaris Collection