Women have to set their sights lower in aviation it appears, according to the controversial CEO of one of the world’s biggest airlines.
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Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways, has triggered a row over sexism in the airline industry by saying that only a man could do his “challenging job”.
Talk about timing — Al Baker said this moments after becoming chairman of the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) board of governors, which happens to be one of the world’s biggest boys’ clubs.
At a press conference in Sydney, where IATA held its annual meeting, he was asked what could be done about the woeful representation of women in Middle East aviation.
Al Baker replied this was not the case at Qatar, before adding: “Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position.”
The comments were met with loud groans of disapproval from several reporters in the room.
A day earlier, IATA members from airlines across the world had listened to a panel discussing ways to address gender imbalances in the industry, reported Bloomberg. When the IATA board posed for a group photo last week, there was just one woman among 26 airline chiefs — Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO of U.K. regional carrier Flybe Group Plc, said the report.
Al Baker clarified his position in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haidi Lun after his press conference. “I was only referring to one individual,” he said. “I was not referring to the staff in general.”
Qatar Airways staff are more than 33 percent female, he told Bloomberg. The carrier has female pilots and female senior vice presidents, he told the agency.
First Published: IST