Qatar Airways boss apologizes for remarks on women CEOs

by Ben Pena June 6, 2018, 12:58
Qatar Airways boss apologizes for remarks on women CEOs

Qatar Airways followed up with a statement from Al Baker suggesting his comment had been made in jest.

Qatar Airways has long had an abysmal reputation for its treatment of its predominantly female cabin crew, at one time firing them for being pregnant.

An IATA board photograph published last week featured one woman out of 26 airline chiefs - Christine Ourmières-Widener, chief executive of United Kingdom regional carrier Flybe.Other airline companies have made efforts to promote women to senior positions in recent years.

Qatar has more than one-third female staff and has women working up to senior vice-president level, Baker claimed. There were loud groans of disapproval from many reporters in the room.

The remarks are not Al Baker's first to spark controversy.

Addressing the International Air Transport Association's male-dominated annual meeting, Al Baker was asked what could be done to address the lack of women in Middle East aviation. "As a matter of fact (at) Air Italy the majority shareholder has shortlisted women to be CEO and as minority shareholder we are actively encouraging that".

Promises by the global airline industry to do more to promote gender equality veered off course when one of its top executives suggested his CEO role was too hard for a woman. Two-fifths of Qantas Airways' senior management is female, including the heads of the global and frequent-flier loyalty businesses, according to the airline's chief executive, Alan Joyce.

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Qantas chief Alan Joyce said at the same press conference that the Australian carrier had achieved a strong turnaround in profits partly due to its pursuit of diversity, with women making up 40 percent of senior management.

That's when Al Baker said that "of course" it "has to be led by a man".

Asked whether he'd welcome a female executive as CEO, Al Baker said: "It will be my pleasure to have a female CEO candidate I could then develop to become CEO after me".

Qatar Airways, Iata and Heathrow were approached for comment.

"I think it's all going to come from the leadership commitment to ingrain that change throughout the organisation", she said at an event focused on gender equality in aviation at the meeting in Sydney.

Last year, Mr Baker was forced to apologised "unreservedly" for his unflattering description of United States flight attendants as "grandmothers".

"Many airlines have implemented programs to encourage gender diversity", it said.

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