Women helped build aviation, now aviation needs to build them up

To say I am humbled after reading the stories of five female WestJetters featured in Women in Aviation Week and International Women’s Day and learning of their diverse experiences in this industry would be a great understatement.

Women have played a large role in building our industry; think of aviation pioneers Amelia Earhart and Katherine Stinson; the first woman to break the sound barrier— Jacqueline Cochran in 1953; Jean Batten a Kiwi who proved she could fly on the first-ever solo flight from New Zealand to England in 1936. In more recent times, our current Secretary General of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Dr. Fang Liu, has been a role model of diverse thinking in the traditionally male dominated world of regulation.

Dr. Liu addressed IATA’s general meeting in 2018 saying, “In China … we have a proverb which states that ‘Women hold up half the sky.’ Air transport connects people, cultures and businesses across the globe, and strengthens socio-economic development worldwide, but at the same time it has not been very successful at providing an open, inclusive working environment for women.”

Photo collage of Ed Sims with the women of WestJet

WestJet has typically done a great job recruiting women for our award-winning guest service; all of which involves critical complex and detailed safety and procedural training. But we need to close the deficit of female representation on the logistic and technical side for roles including pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers as well as at the leadership level; seven per cent of our pilots are female, 26 per cent of our global leadership team is female, while 56 per cent of our WestJet workforce is female.

This is not about tokenism or quotas. This is the simple reality of the power of diverse thinking to ensure the decisions we make represent our whole society.

I am committed to actively reducing the gender gap across the organization, starting now. We will achieve this by increasing awareness of our current lack of female representation, partnering with organizations to inspire women and young girls to pursue careers in aviation and providing assessment training for our leaders to ensure consistent selection of the best candidate.

My goal is to create a diverse and inspiring workforce that will encourage aspiring young girls and women to pursue careers in aviation.
As WestJet continues to grow, there is one thing I know to be true – diversity is our strength. We can no longer be complacent in striving for equal gender representation throughout our organization. Visit westjet.com to learn about our 2020 commitments.