Seven of the world’s top 100 passenger airlines are led by women, according to FlightGlobal analysis updated to mark International Women’s Day – a total that represents a high point in five years of data.
FlightGlobal has completed an annual survey of gender diversity in key C-suite roles since 2017, with the most recent analysis showing six women leading carriers ranked among the top 100 airlines. But since that analysis was completed in late 2021, Annette Mann has taken over as chief executive of Austrian Airlines, further boosting the total.
Mann became Austrian chief executive on 1 March, following the departure to WestJet of Alexis von Hoensbroech.
She joins Lynne Embleton at Aer Lingus, Anne Rigail at Air France, Annick Guerard at Air Transat, Christine Ourmieres-Widener at TAP Air Portugal, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao at VietJet and Jayne Hrdlicka at Virgin Australia among the women leading top airlines.
With 7% of top airline chief executives being women, the industry is slightly ahead of the gender mix seen among S&P 500 companies, where 6% of leaders are women, according to recent data from global non-profit organisation Catalyst.
Recent research by the Cranfield School of Management, meanwhile, shows that 8% of UK FTSE 100 companies have female chief executives.
The number of women leading airlines has fluctuated since FlightGlobal began its survey in 2017, starting at four, then dropping to two in 2018, before rising to four in 2019, dropping to three in 2020, and rising to six in 2021.
The industry has some way to go to meet the goals of IATA’s landmark 25by2025 initiative, which has a headline target to increase the number of women in airline executive roles. But the overall incremental improvement being seen in FlightGlobal’s surveys – once five further C-suite roles are added to the mix – chimes with experience on the ground and hints at some carriers taking the issue seriously.
The survey encompasses airlines featured in FlightGlobal’s World Airline Rankings based on pre-Covid traffic, which covers the top 100 airlines and groups.
Examples of female airline leaders outside the top 100 airlines include RwandAir’s Yvonne Makolo, Wingo’s Carolina Cortizo, HK Express’s Mandy Ng, Transavia France’s Nathalie Stubler, Lufthansa Cargo’s Dorothea von Boxberg, Cape Air’s Linda Markham, Indonesia AirAsia’s Veranita Yosephine Sinaga, and Atlantic Airways’ Johanna a Bergi.
Away from the chief executive role, JetBlue Airways was a standout performer in 2021’s survey, becoming the first carrier to employ women in four of the six surveyed positions.
The New York-based operator employs Ursula Hurley as chief financial officer, Joanna Geraghty as president and chief operating officer, Carol Clements as chief digital and technology officer and Laurie Villa as chief people officer.