Airlines Expedite Appointments of Women on Top Positions

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The aviation industry has long been making strides in increasing the presence of women in top executive positions, but recent data suggests that the pace of change is accelerating, signalling a departure from years of sluggish progress. Encouraging developments have continued into the early months of 2024.

According to FlightGlobal’s latest survey of gender diversity within the 100 largest passenger airlines and groups worldwide, the growth rate of women in senior executive roles experienced its most significant surge in seven years during 2023. Despite this progress, men still dominate every position except for chief people officer.

While the proportion of women in surveyed executive roles – 106 out of 600, or 18% – underscores the industry’s ongoing need for substantial improvement towards gender parity, the latest data signifies a notable acceleration in female representation within executive ranks compared to previous years. Whereas previous years had seen a steady annual increase of one percentage point, the latest data reveals a three percentage point rise, translating to 14 more women employed in the 600 executive roles surveyed.

This increase in female representation at the C-suite level was partly fueled by rises in the number of women assuming roles such as chief financial officers and chief information officers. Notably, the rise in female executives occurred despite a decrease in the number of female chief executives year on year, from 12 at the end of 2022 to 11 at the end of 2023. However, positive developments have emerged since the survey data was compiled.

Australia has emerged as a leader in gender diversity, with airlines like Qantas, Jetstar, and Virgin Australia being helmed by women. JetBlue Airways stands out for its exceptional performance in gender diversity, with four out of six surveyed C-suite roles held by women, a feat unmatched by other carriers.

The data also underscores the importance of increasing the number of women in the broader C-suite to facilitate the ascension of female chief executives, as the industry tends to prefer internal appointments from existing executive teams.

Notably, the chief executive role was the only position to experience a negative trend year on year. However, there were significant increases in female representation in roles such as chief financial officer (+4), chief information officer (+3), and chief people officer (+7). Despite this progress, there was only a slight rise in female chief operating officers and no change in the number of women serving as chief commercial officers.

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