RwandAir chief executive – and outgoing chair of the IATA board of governors – Yvonne Makolo believes the airline industry still has a long way to go on improving its record on diversity.

Speaking during the opening press conference at the IATA AGM in Dubai on 2 June, Makolo cited diversity as an issue that still requires significant attention and action.

RwandAir IATA board chair

Source: BillyPix

Makolo says the problem is well-understood

“As the first female chair of IATA’s board of governors, I was aware of the example it gives to all women in aviation and of my responsibility as an agent of much-needed change,” she states.

Reflecting the scale of the industry’s challenge on diversity, Makolo’s appointment as board chair came after 80 men held the role.

Noting that next year will bring to a close IATA’s 25by2025 initiative, which is aimed at increasing the number of women in executive roles at airlines, Makolo says: “Its lasting contribution will be in creating a mindset where there is nothing special in IATA having a female chair of the board or an airline having a gender balanced management team or pilot population.”

But speaking to FlightGlobal on the sidelines of the event, Makolo says that rather than replacing 25by2025 with another formal initiative, the industry “just needs to get on with it”.

“We all know how bad the situation is,” Makolo says.

“There’s no way we can exclude 50% of the population and expect the industry to continue thriving,” she states.

The responsibility to take action, Makolo adds, does not lie with women.

“It’s not for the women to do it – it’s for everybody to do it and make a deliberate effort to change the status quo.”

Airline Business’s annual survey of the gender balance in the airline C-suite showed an uptick in the number of women in senior roles during 2023, albeit men continue to take the vast majority of roles – including 89% of chief executive positions.