Here’s an interesting question for today: Do you often get unwanted attention when traveling for work? What are your best tips for women on avoiding unwanted advances during business travel? Does it happen most often in hotel bars, on the plane, at the airport, or elsewhere? From coworkers, clients — or strangers? Do you ever feel unsafe during those experiences, or are you mostly just annoyed when you’re trying to do some work, eat a meal, or simply get to where you’re going?
The question of how to avoid being hit on when you’re traveling for work is especially relevant in light of all of the changes happening these days with sexual harassment, office culture, and the #metoo movement. As if flight delays, lost luggage, and jet lag weren’t enough, two in five women say they’ve experienced sexual harassment or unwelcome interactions while traveling, according to a recent survey.
We acknowledge that it’s sad and wrong that there’s even a need for a post called “tips for women on avoiding unwanted advances during business travel” (and that many women feel like they have to change their behavior or appearance to avoid being hit on or harassed while traveling), but unfortunately, that’s the reality that most of us live in. (There also needs to be something to counter the pieces aimed at men with titles like “How to Pick Up Women on Airplanes” and “How to Pick Up Business Women in Hotel Bars.”) I also want to point out that we don’t want to imply that any woman should be blamed for unwanted attention if she doesn’t do the things below — we just thought it would be helpful to share some advice and ask readers for theirs.
Psst: We’ve previously shared business travel tips and tricks and discussed readers’ best self-defense tips, as well as given advice on how to handle a client hitting on you and how to stop a flirtatious boss from hitting on you. You may also want to check out our post on the best personal safety apps for women!
Here are some tips for avoiding unwanted advances during business travel:
- Get some mileage out of your RBF! While your resting bitch face may most often lead to people calling you a bitch behind your back, or compel men to tell you to smile, now you can use it to your advantage! Feel free to look as unapproachable as you want — hey, go wild and cross your arms too (while hoping it comes off as standoffish, not as “I’m so bored. Some unwanted male attention is just what I need!”) If ignoring a guy who’s staring at you doesn’t make him move on to his next target, return his gaze without changing your expression.
- Wear a fake wedding ring. This certainly won’t deter every man who’s thinking of approaching you, but it’ll work in some cases, and it’ll only cost you $10 or $15. Alternately, if you have a sparkly and conspicuous right-hand ring that will fit on your left hand, switch it when you need to. (Maybe you can use this as a justification to splurge and buy yourself one if you’ve been considering it…)
- Read a book. If you don’t have one handy, you can instead try to make it clear that you only have eyes for your Instagram feed. Be aware that this strategy can backfire (even when it’s not a strategy), as a writer for Cosmopolitan found when a guy saw her reading at a bar and insisted, “You’re just reading so some guy will hit on you.” (I mean, sure — that’s why I got my English degree.)
- Wear sunglasses. If you’re feeling especially uncomfortable, sunglasses can prevent a guy from believing your accidental eye contact is a conscious invitation. (Bonus: If you want to indulge in a bit of people-watching during that long layover, no one will be the wiser…)
- Use earbuds/headphones, whether or not you’re listening to something. On the other hand, a common safety tip for women is to only wear one earbud so that you can stay aware of your surroundings, but … that kind of defeats the purpose. You can always limit this strategy to situations and places where you feel reasonably safe, i.e., not walking back to your hotel alone at night.
- Resist any natural impulse to always be “nice.” Women are so often socialized to act “nice” and be people-pleasers, but if you’re tired of your polite/friendly behavior being interpreted as romantic interest, try to check yourself.
- If you’re traveling to a country where most women dress very differently than you normally do, try to blend in by dressing as conservatively as they do, within reason. (By the way, you can find a lot of reader comments on our post on what businesswomen should wear in the Middle East with specific recommendations for Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc.) Again, please don’t read this as us saying, “Of course she was hit on all the time — look at what she was wearing!”
What are YOUR best tips for women on avoiding unwanted advances during business travel? Do you find that some strategies work better than others?
Further Reading with Tips for Women on Avoiding Unwanted Advances During Travel:
- How to Avoid the Friendly Skies [Road Warriorette]
- Smart Ways to Handle Sexual Harassment Abroad [Muse]
- Solo Travel Safety Tips [Travelle]
- How to Avoid Unwanted Attention While Traveling [Globelle]
- Unwanted Attention: Dealing with Sexual Harassment Abroad [Women on the Road]
- Tips to Avoid Unwanted Male Attention as a Traveling Female [Eat Sleep Breath Travel]
Image credit: Deposit Photos / Wavebreakmedia.