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Women Hold 14% of Top Airline Jobs and Trends Continue to Improve

FlightGlobal’s survey of the crisis-hit airline industry reveals progress has been made on improving the C-suite gender balance over the past 12 months.

The world’s largest passenger airlines are employing more women in top executive roles this year, albeit on a trend that means it would still be the mid-2050s before half of such positions have female incumbents, according to FlightGlobal’s latest survey.

Some 14% of the roles surveyed across the top 100 airlines had female incumbents in early October this year – continuing the one percentage point increases seen in each of the past three years.

The increase this year marks the largest rise in women employed across the six roles in absolute and percentage terms since FlightGlobal began tracking trends in 2017. There were 85 female incumbents in 2020 compared with 76 last year – an increase of 12%, versus rises of 5.5% (four women) in 2019 and 11% (seven women) in 2018.

Those numbers reflect mixed progress from an industry that went into the coronavirus crisis having identified a better gender mix in C-suites as an important priority.

In terms of encouraging signs, this year’s survey marks the first time that a region – North America – exceeded 25% of senior executive roles being taken by women.

This indicates genuine progress towards meeting the goals of IATA’s 25by2025 initiative – one of the industry’s most high-profile efforts to increase female representation at the top of airlines.

Launched in 2019, the IATA program encourages airline members to sign up to a commitment to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions and under-represented areas by 25% – or to a minimum of 25% – by 2025.

Overall, of the 600 senior executive roles surveyed in October 2020 – covering chief executive, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, chief commercial officer, chief information officer and HR director, or their equivalents – some 85 were taken by women. This compares with 76 in 2019, 72 in 2018, and 65 in 2017.

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