March is Women’s History Month—an important opportunity to amplify and appreciate the accomplishments of women around the world.
Here at U.S. Travel, we are taking this opportunity to highlight women who have shown immense leadership in the travel and tourism industry.
Amelia DeLuca, Vice President of Sustainability at Delta Air Lines, shared what Women’s History Month means to her, the importance of having male allies in the workplace and the pivotal role they can play in fostering gender equality.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you and how do you celebrate it?
I have two young daughters so Women’s History Month is really year-round at our house. There are so many ways to teach kids about strong women now, including books (Rebel Girls is our favorite), podcasts, movies and even RBG pajamas (yes, we own those!). But what I appreciate about Women’s History Month is that it provides an opportunity for everyone to celebrate, reflect and participate. That includes celebrating the amazing women that came before us, but also acknowledging all the women around the world who are still suffering or are undervalued because of lack of women’s rights or gender equity. This year’s International Women’s Day theme of #BreakTheBias is a great example of that, as it is a reminder that we all must be accountable for change to occur.
How have you witnessed or experienced the roles of women change in society over the past decade(s)?
The easy answer is to point to the fact that I am a senior leader in corporate America and my husband has always put my career first – we’ve moved all around the world, which has allowed me to thrive and grow at Delta. I am forever grateful to live in a time when I’ve been able to pursue my dreams without having to apologize for my ambitions. The harder answer, however, is to point out that while we’ve made progress, every day I see examples of so many women whose roles in society haven’t changed or improved as dramatically. I witnessed it firsthand when living in Mexico, seeing how women across all economic statuses had constraints and challenges vastly different than my own. But even in the U.S., it’s well-known that women of color continue to suffer the most severe gender wage gap. That’s why I’m so passionate about gender equity – it’s a journey with no end but limitless opportunities to make a difference.
Data shows that women are leaving the workforce at the highest rate in decades. What do you consider the biggest challenges for women in the workforce and what can be done to address them and empower more women?
Societally we’ve got to figure out what to do about childcare (and eldercare). I have an incredibly supportive leadership team at work and partner at home, and the pandemic still crippled me multiple times as I tried to balance kids and work. There is no feeling of failure worse than feeling like you are failing at both work and home.
Secondly, we need to talk more about how we’re doing – how we’re “really” doing. I love the fact that one of the good things coming out of the pandemic is that we are talking about mental health finally. I’ve had so many amazing conversations about mental health in the past couple of years, conversations previously that never would have happened. Those conversations free us up to be, to feel, to not be ok and to be our true authentic selves.
Finally, we need men to be allies. It isn’t enough for men to just be supporters of women, they need to walk alongside women. A year ago when I took over as the leader of SHE Leads, I immediately, and for the first time ever, asked a male leader to join me as the co-executive sponsor. And it’s changed the conversation and the focus of how we approach gender equity in leadership. It’s no longer about “fix the women” but how men as advocates and allies play a pivotal role in the next phase of gender equity.
Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired you? What’s your favorite piece of advice you’ve received or like to give?
Anyone who knows me knows I love RBG. She was this amazing force – methodical and perfect in her approach to overturning unfair laws yet bold and shocking in her vision for gender equity (“People ask me sometimes, ‘When will there be enough women on the court?’ My answer is: ‘When there are nine.’ - RBG”). She has inspired me at so many different points in my career and I know she’ll continue to do so for many years to come.
However, given the timing of writing this, I have to say that I am most inspired by the women of Ukraine. It is unfathomable to me to imagine what they are going through. Living in a place where they are under attack, making decisions about fleeing with kids, leaving their homes, leaving family members behind to fight…the strength of those women (and all the Ukrainian people) is inspiring.
My favorite piece of advice – that changed my perspective on so many things – came from a yoga teacher in NYC – “do what you can and leave the rest behind”. I wouldn’t say I follow that advice perfectly all the time (I am incredibly results-oriented!) but it’s my north star and helps remind me to live in the moment and fear failure less.