Airlines and gender stereotypesBack to Forum
I was flicking through the internal BA publication today and there was a feature on the 20th anniversary of the OneWorld alliance.
Accompanying the article was two press photos. The first of each of the member airline CEO’s sat on a stage during a speech. The second, a group photo of a uniformed staff member of each of the airlines.
What struck me was two fold. Firstly, the lack of a single female amongst the thirteen airline CEO’s. And secondly the staff promo shot included a total of one male (and kudos to AA for featuring him). All the others was a young pretty female. Now I’ve flown all the OneWorld carriers (bar S7 and Sri Lankan) and apart from JAL I’d say a sizeable minority of staff are male. I find it odd that in 2019 the airlines almost still seem to be pandering to the ‘businessmen want to see pretty young girls’ line. Or maybe I’m wrong.
The irony is that on the 20th anniversary OneWorld revealed a new media identity. Meant to reflect modernity and diversity. Lots of the new campaign pictures and videos show businesswomen travelling etc. And this seemed such a contradiction with its own promo pix.
I know much of this has a cultural aspect. In Asia it is an expectation that the ‘girls’ will be the ‘front of house’ for the airline. I know this as I used to be LHR based crew for an asian carrier and male crew were relegated to galley duties. No facing the passengers. As is still the case with SQ.
This is not intended as a rant or something I find particularly bothering. More just an observation that a similar PR shoot would probably look exactly the same in 1970 (although of course the ‘girls’ would be in shorter skirts and with hats and gloves).10 Mar 2019
I find SQ always have male crew in the business class at front line duty.
However in economy class, almost every time I noted female crew.
And I think it serves SQ model very well.
In economy keep the herd happy with food and drinks and get that served by pretty faces.
And in business, mix pretty faces with male crew to show a so-called efficient and business like approach.
My take? I always find ladies are caring and more efficient.
Slightly off topic: Air India ran a high number of international and domestic flight with all female crew on international women’s day. Quodos to them. Besides the logistics and planning they have the numbers. Excellent.10 Mar 2019
Fully agree, RFerguson. I raised this when the news item came out in BT last month (but I cannot find the thread). The CEOs picture reflects a sad reality, not confined to the airline sector. Defenders will point to lone swallows such as Carolyn McCall but she was very much the exception. The staff picture is inexcusable and is gender stereotyping at its very worst and, yes, it does make a difference to public perception and, ultimately, to things like pay levels. Shame on whoever manages media imaging in oneworld. Maybe BT should adopt a stronger advocacy role in highlighting issues such as this?10 Mar 2019
There are other precedents which come to mind :
The French woman, Christiane Ourmiers (?) CEO at FlyBe.
Dodo Myeni, Chairwoman, at SAA.
Neither of them covered themselves in glory, the latter in particular.
Can’t think of any others but no doubt there have been.10 Mar 2019
In Asia it is an expectation that the ‘girls’ will be the ‘front of house’ for the airline. I know this as I used to be LHR based crew for an asian carrier and male crew were relegated to galley duties. No facing the passengers. As is still the case with SQ.
In retail and fashion, shareholders and customers would run to the press (and sometimes the AGM) to make claims of child labour and minimum wage if it was established an 11 year old in a poverty stricken country was involved in the mfg of a garment. Whilst child labour, as far as I am aware does not exists in the cabin or flight deck (probably much to the annoyance of many young children), sexism certainly does. Having seen first hand how QATAR selects cabin crew for interview based on sex, age, dress, make up and looks and without wishing to be categorized as a “snowflake”, I think the boardroom is just one area where modernity and diversity needs to be addressed in the airlines.
For a major airline to admit in 2019 – “male crew were relegated to galley duties. No facing the passengers. As is still the case with SQ”, in my mind is unacceptable and perhaps the big alliances such as star and o/w should have agreed minimum standards across the brand
male crew were relegated to galley duties. No facing the passengers. As is still the case with SQ.10 Mar 2019
I don’t see “gender stereotyping” being an accurate description of the make up of the OW representatives.
It’s a way too broad description and the problem is that using it and similar categorisations is that it looses its original meaning. A bit like hate crime, homophobic, snowflake, Asian cuisine etc.
“Male dominated” would make more sense here, and it is a reflection of those considered sufficiently qualified by the member airlines to act as their representative on this panel.
Not enough female senior executives perhaps, but gender stereotyping probably not.
1 user thanked author for this post.10 Mar 2019
I always prefer female cabin crew taking care of me. Being 36 and looking younger, when I fly F, and often but not always C, women tend to be especially friendly and smiling to me. When they are a bit older they even tend, from time to time, to show some kind of behaviour which I would describe as being almost of motherhood (I’m sorry but english is not my mother tongue). That can be bothering to some one but gives a lot of warmth to my flight experience. Men, apart few times, are more ‘strictly professional’, anyway never rude.10 Mar 2019
Esselle, I think the role stereotyping is about the crew not the CEOs. Pictures like this shape the choices that young people make about career choices etc.
The leadership profile reflects institutionalised gender bias at senior levels of most businesses across the globe. The excuses frequently trundled out (no wish for the role etc.) are tosh, IMHO.
1 user thanked author for this post.10 Mar 2019
That is great, Esselle.
And I would argue that 50% of the exceptionally talented people in the world are women but the majority of them are unable to access such top positions. Which also suggests that many less talented men are promoted beyond their level of competence.10 Mar 2019
More talented clearly than the other candidates for the role, which is why she was appointed. I used the word extraordinarily to describe her talent, something l became very aware of having worked for her over a number of years.11 Mar 2019
In that business I had geographic responsibility for a large part of the world and ran it through a network of regionally based CEOs. Of the seven, five were female. All were appointed entirely on their merits, some internally and some external hires. Gender played no part in the selection process. Am I missing your point?11 Mar 2019
As far as CEO are concerned AK/KLM has position itself as best in class in terms of gender diversity with a female CEO for AF, a male CEO for KLM and a openly gay CEO for the holding Company.11 Mar 2019