Winds of change are blowing across the air cargo sector from past few years in terms of diverse workforce. The sector has not yet completely achieved the goal of fading gender stereotypes and looking at diversity in talent management. However, it is slowly getting there.
2010 saw a debut in the worldwide air cargo sector when a Lufthansa cargo aircraft took off with a women-only crew.
On March 8, 2016, five flights of the Lufthansa Group with 63 female and one male crew member departed Frankfurt, Munich, Geneva, Vienna, and Brussels for New York. Lufthansa, SWISS, and Brussels Airlines flights had women-only crews, while on Austrian Airlines flight OS087, all but one crew member was female.
Women employed at Emirates come from diverse backgrounds and work across the entire spectrum of Emirates’ operations. Over 18,000 work as cabin crew, while the rest are represented across technical as well as in professional and leadership roles. Close to 2.5 percent of the total female staff occupy managerial positions in the airline, and women are also increasingly working and advancing in functions that were more traditionally represented by men.
This year’s Air Cargo Africa edition also witnessed many women participating as speakers on the panel, compared to previous editions.
Ergo, the idea of diverse workforce has been increasingly gaining momentum in logistics industry, especially the air cargo sector. Diversity in talent management has been a hot topic discussed quiet often by companies in recent years. Though discussed quiet often, the sector still remains male dominated. There are less women in positions of leadership in the sector.
In aviation, cargo is less glamorous than the passenger segment of the business, gets lower exposure and is considered less attractive. The night working hours may also not be very conducive to many, especially those with young children, and there is no overnight leap to success. A lot of it is sheer hard work, and just the utter joy of seeing an aircraft take wing every night, on time, with the maximum revenue load.
“Unfortunately there are only few female corporate leaders in the air cargo sector to lead by example. Personally, I’m an advocate for gender equality and I do not see any specific differences. There are some pretty inspiring leaders in the field, but I believe corporate leadership to be gender neutral. Last year, a leading news portal wrote an article on Women in Logistics and how it is time they had a voice at international industry events. Although I had never given it much thought before, the article made me think, there are indeed very few female speakers at international events. I’ll be speaking at this years’ World Cargo Symposium, and I’ll look out for other females that take the stage,” says Saskia van Pelt, director Business Development Cargo, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
“Women have had a difficult time achieving equal opportunity in many industries. The proverbial “glass ceiling” hinders their advancement to senior positions that offer higher responsibility and pay. In the airfreight sector women in top management positions are still rare but their number is increasing. There are women with significant influence, for example in AirBridgeCargo, Coyne, Air Canada, Schiphol, ICAO, and, of course, LUG to name just a few. But I have to concede our industry is still male-dominated and very conservative,” shares Diana Schoeneich, MD/COO, LUG aircargo handling GmbH.
There is no denial to the fact that the sector still remains male dominated, however, it is slowly taking steps to fade gender stereotypes. The number of women in the transport and logistics industry in general, and the air cargo sector in particular, is increasing steadily. From pilots to aircraft engineers, cargo supervisors to flight dispatchers, women are being seen everywhere. Gender and cultural diversity can pay off in other ways too, for example by sparking creativity and enhancing innovation.
A report by McKinsey, published already in 2009, showed that having at least 30 percent women in higher-level leadership positions significantly improves financial performance.
“At Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, we have signed a Charter for proactive gender equality called Talent to the Top. We have a Board of Directors that is 50 percent female and in 2015, 35 percent of top management positions in the company were held by women.”
“Furthermore, we have a network organisation called “Women on Air”, that regularly meets to exchange experiences and is also in contact with other female networking groups in other industries in The Netherlands. What other companies do, I cannot say though. As the industry is so male dominated, I do think there is some room for improvement,” says Saskia van Pelt, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
Lise-Marie Turpin, vice president Cargo, Air Canada, shares, “I feel that Air Canada has created an environment of respect and equal opportunity, both prerequisites to enable diversity in the workplace. Where possible, we also allow for flexibility in work schedules to encourage and protect work/life balance.”
She adds, “We must build greater awareness of our industry to make women better aware of the aspects and dimensions in which they can learn, grow and flourish in our industry. Cargo offers wonderful career opportunities across a broad range of areas. There are positions in the commercial, operational, financial and IT fields, and so on. Outreach programmes at different levels of educational institutions would be a good place to start, as well as fostering interest within our own companies and organisations.”
“We would like to have a reach of 20 percent of female leaders in our company and we have already matched about 25 percent on all levels,” says Anke Giesen, COO, Fraport AG. Fraport AG in Germany has got a quarter as a target.
Generally women are found to be responsive, efficient multi-taskers, good communicators, team players and solution finders. In a dynamic environment where events regularly call for speedy decision-making, responsiveness and practical solutions, these are valuable attributes. Air Cargo, being a people’s business, requires these qualities.
“Women have a variety of skills to offer in the air cargo sector, even if those skills are not exclusively female. I would list the top three as attention to detail, multitasking and soft, social skills, with the latter being the most important,” says Liana Coyne, director, Coyne Airways.
The new era awaits scenario where women are completely no longer outsiders for the air cargo sector. At the same time, companies need to take constant efforts to ensure female friendly environment in the workplace.
“Considering the financial pressures in this business sector I feel it is high time more women are promoted to top-level positions. A gender-balanced, ethnically diverse and cross-generational team is not just about political correctness, but is essential to meet the challenges of international business.”
“Air cargo is not only international it is also a people’s business. And women are particularly good in this area. I am confident that there will be considerably more women in executive roles in our industry in ten years,” concludes Schoeneich, LUG aircargo handling GmbH.
Opening Image Source: AirBridgeCargo Airlines