The Australian Airports Association (AAA) held its annual Women in Airports Forum on Monday in Melbourne and Travel Weekly’s Nancy Hromin was invited to exclusively cover the event in the lead-up to the Women In Travel Awards on 5 December.
The day began with an opening address by Rachel Gatumia, from Amadeus, who shared data and actionable initiatives that have been driving female participation in their business. Gatumia said since the event was founded in 2019 it has grown significantly from a pre-breakfast pow-wow sandwiched before the main conference to a full day of keynotes, workshops and networking and over 200 attendees.
AAA Chief Executive James Goodwin then welcomed the delegates, adding he felt slightly uncomfortable to open the conference as a man, but added it was great that he was not alone and that this year there are more male champions in the room than before.
Suffice to say, Goodwin is a strong advocate for gender parity and stated his personal commitment to ensure the workplace as a manager and as a leader, was a safe space and a place where people felt inspired and empowered.
“To see the Forum go from strength to strength each year is a testament to all involved in the industry and a collective decision on wanting to make an inclusive environment for all,” Goodwin said.
“I am proud of the success of this forum, it is important that as a group we all work together to achieve continued growth of female leadership within the aviation industry.”
Lorie Argus, CEO superstar and appointed to the top job for Melbourne airport in July last year, reflected on her career in aviation over the years and the changes she has noticed.
She spent much of her career as the only woman in senior leadership, and it was uncomfortable. She then challenged every woman in the room to be “uncomfortable, at least once a week, or you are not growing”
“I mean, I could tell you, the stories over my career in the 90s in aviation. HR would not approve but that’s a whole other story” she quipped.
Her main message, however, was on quotas, which she says has seen the number of women in senior roles increase exponentially.
“If you don’t have representation and advocate for more room for women to the sector, then we’re not going to move the dial. I am very passionate about this.
I have very accomplished women on my team. I think I have about 60, at least, with us from Melbourne Airport, and together we will continue the work until we have parity.”
Argus went on to note that a seismic shift has occurred in aviation, with the CEO Airline Major’s group all now run by women.
“It is pretty exciting,” she said.
“But the flip side of that, is if you look at the federal government barriers of pipelines and research this year, it still says for our sector that 80 per cent of participants feel that the barrier for women entering this sector is gender diversity.
“The fact remains that only 20 per cent of women are in senior leadership roles.”
Argus concluded her talk by informing the audience of some recent data she read which was that a company had a 300 per cent statistically higher chance of getting more women into roles when they have gender targets.
Melbourne Airport didn’t have gender targets up until last year when Argus introduced them.
We look forward to hearing her success stories.
‘She is a woman, who roars.’
The AAA is the national voice for airports, representing the interests of more than 340 airports and aerodromes across Australia. It also represents more than 150 corporate members supplying products and services to airports and the wider aviation industry.
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