The aviation world needs #BalanceforBetter
Last year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed that only 3% of airline CEOs were women. This is a startlingly low figure and it’s clear that the aviation industry still has a way to go before it achieves ‘balance for the better’ – as per this year’s International Women’s Day theme. We take a closer look at the current state of play to see just how far the industry has come and how much more progress still needs to be made.
Another positive step forward
Last year ended on a high for women in aviation. In December 2018, Air France appointed Anne Rigail as its new CEO, making her the first woman to ever take up the prestigious role in the airline’s 85-year history. Prior to her appointment, Rigail had been Air France’s executive vice president.
Rigail is seen as a force to be reckoned with, with her predecessor, Benjamin Smith, describing her as a “strong professional within the industry”. Her brief? To completely transform Air France.
Other stars of the industry
Christine Ourmières-Widener is another notable presence at the very upper echelons of the aviation industry. Since 2016 she has been CEO of Flybe, a small regional airline headquartered in the UK. Since her appointment she has been focused on investing in the latest technology to modernise Flybe’s operations. Her previous roles have included top positions at CityJet and Air France.
Kristin Colvile heads up another significant role in the industry – since 2018 she has been CEO of the SkyTeam Airline Alliance. Based in the Netherlands, it’s made up of 19 different airlines across five continents. She’s another aviation heavyweight, with over a quarter of century’s worth of airline experience under her belt.
Elsewhere, Aireen Omar is Deputy Group CEO of AirAsia, a Malaysian low-cost airline, while Carolyn McCall was chief executive of British based airline easyJet for seven years, up until January 2018. She is now the first ever female Chief Executive of ITV.
The challenges ahead
In spite of these notable exceptions, a lot of work needs to be done to get more women into senior positions in the aviation industry. For example, according to the Centre for Aviation (CAPA), as of 2015, only 15 women hold a CEO or MD position at an airline. In the US, it is still the case that no major American airline ever had a female CEO.
Beyond the world of senior management, the picture is just as troubling. Globally, only 5% of pilots are women – which is all the more startling when you compare that figure to the high percentage of cabin crew members that are women (69%).
The appointment of Rigail at Air France is a huge step in the right direction to improving gender balance in the aviation industry and, as per the International Women’s Day campaign theme, encouraging more balance for the better.