During the annual International Air Transport Association meeting, a hot topic discussed was the problem with gender imbalance in aviation. The predominantly male gathering agreed that they had to work to change this imbalance.
When Akbar al Baker was asked about this issue, particularly in Middle East airlines, why his job as head of Qatar‘s flag carrier could not be performed by a woman, he gave a typically provocative answer.
He said it was obviously a job for a man to have because of the challenge of the position. Some did gasp at his blunt statement, although it’s still uncertain if he was joking or not.
His comment came minutes after he joked one of his goals as the new chairman of IATA was to be less controversial. Al Baker does have a reputation for attacking rivals and suppliers due to poor performance.
Later, Al Baker stated Qatar Airways was the first in their region to have female pilots and in other senior roles. He also said they encourage women in his region as they see their potential in upper management positions.
Diversity Pays, and the International Air Transport Association Knows it
Alan Joyce, the gay CEO of Qantas Airways said their work towards a diverse workforce could help drive profits forward. Joyce also campaigned for marriage equality in Australia.
Joyce stated that in getting the best talent, it’s obvious that the company will perform at its peak. He also attributes Qantas turn around to their embrace of diversity. It doesn’t matter who they are, so long as they are good at what they do.
The first woman president of the World Travel and Tourism Council, Gloria Manzo, says investors need to start pushing companies to do more. Manzo repeated Joyce’s sentiment that diversity is more than just for the sake of diversity. It helps strengthen companies that embrace it.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd is to have a fully male top management team while Anna Thompson, Director of Flight Operations, departs for another role in their parent company, Swire Group.
Rupert Hogg, the CEO of Cathay explains there were no vacancies immediately on the top team. However, diversity is greatly valued at the airline there are women managers one level below. The airline has a diverse staff with 75 different nationalities. It is also a supporter of the Gay Games in Hong Kong for 2022.
The CEO of British Airways, Willie Walsh said the industry still had to work out a way to attract more women to the program. Although there has been progress, it has taken forty years to get to ten percent for women pilots.