Women in PaxEx: Working Together

While progress has been made toward narrowing the gender gap in the aviation industry – Farzaneh Sharafbafi became the first female CEO of Iran Air in July 2017 – the global labor force participation rate for women as of December 2017 was just over 49%, compared to 76% for men, according to the International Labor Organization. The Women in PaxEx series provides insight from women working in the airline passenger experience industry who are flying above the glass ceiling. This installment focuses on the importance of female support networks in the industry.

Captain Mary McMillan, Vice-President of Safety and Operational Services, Inmarsat Aviation

Captain Mary McMillan

Captain McMillan began flying in 1982 and has logged over 12,000 hours of flight time in aircraft including the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, Boeing 747, 737, 757/767 and Airbus 320.

For over 20 years, she was a pilot, standards captain and flight operations duty manager with United Airlines. She was among the first women to become a chief pilot for a commercial airline and was also the first-ever female Standards Captain for United Airlines.

Now, she brings a unique combination of airline, air traffic, regulatory and international aviation experience to her role, working with Inmarsat’s partners, airlines and air navigation service providers.

Do you have a network of female friends or co-workers in the industry that you rely on for guidance, advice, support or even just bit of comic relief?

All of the above! Several women began their careers in aviation at a similar time as me and we have matured through our careers together. It’s invaluable to have a network of like-minded women who bring a high level of passion, dedication and experience to the industry.

“It’s invaluable to have a network of like-minded women.” – Mary McMillan, Inmarsat

Why is it important for women in male-dominated fields to have a support network in place, work together and help each other out?

It is essential for women to have this kind of support in any field, whether it is male-dominated or not. Having shared commitments, motivations and interests lends itself to mutual support, and this opportunity should not be wasted. From my experience, younger women in aviation particularly benefit from being able to relate to someone of the same gender with a shared understanding of the industry. That said, support can and should equally come from men. Often the will is there, and it is more a case of understanding: I was the first female crewmember that many of my male colleagues had ever flown with and initially many of them were unsure if and how they should be acting differently to accommodate me, which wasn’t actually necessary for my job at all.

Tell us about a woman in the industry you admire and respect. What qualities or ethics does she have that we could all benefit from adopting?

I particularly admire Judith Resnik, who was the second female astronaut in space. Her progression and many groundbreaking experiences are an ongoing inspiration for me. Equally, I always admire women who bring an extraordinary level of dedication to their jobs. It is fantastic to see women not only opening the door for themselves but also widening it for other women. In my career, Nancy Young has particularly stood out. She came from a modest background but did not let anything stand in the way of her success. She is now vice-president of Environmental Affairs at Airlines for America and a recognized global leader of environmental policy for aviation, fundamental to changing the industry for the better.

Zina Neophytou, Vice-President – Out of Home, BBC Worldwide

Zina Neophytou

Zina Neophytou oversees global distribution and revenue of the BBC Worldwide TV Channels, the BBC Programming catalog and the BBC World News Channel across all out-of-home verticals. Zina is also responsible for the strategy, business development and sales negotiation within this area of distribution. In January 2017, Zina successfully launched BBC HD, BBC Worldwide’s first channel produced exclusively for cruiseships and the wider maritime market.

Zina was the first female in her traditional Greek Cypriot family to go to university and graduated from London Guildhall University with an honors degree in French and Spanish. She speaks five languages.

The views expressed below are the personal opinions of Zina Neophytou and do not reflect those of the BBC.

There can be feelings of jealousy or rivalry between women in business. Do you think this is true in aviation?

I feel nothing but complete admiration for successful women in business and I don’t think there are enough of them in boardrooms today. Women can bring a different perspective and great qualities to any board and they should be welcomed a lot more. If there is ever rivalry between women in business, it’s a real shame because I believe women can be so much stronger when united. Over the last few months we’ve seen some admirable unity from women in numerous industries. It feels like this is the time for Girl Power, and to come together and really be heard.

“Women can be so much stronger when united.” – Zina Neophytou, BBC Worldwide

Do you have a network of female friends or co-workers in the industry that you rely on for guidance, advice, support or even just bit of comic relief?

When I spend time with my female friends and co-workers I always feel a great sense of reassurance and relief that I’m not alone in the continuous work/family life balancing act. This is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done and a battle I think many women face when choosing to start a family.

Tell us about a woman you admire and respect. What qualities or ethics does she have that we could all benefit from adopting?

I grew up in a country where our prime minister was a woman, so I believed from a very young age that women could succeed and achieve anything they wanted. I’ve always felt empowered to pursue a successful career and I admire any woman with ambition to succeed and to pursue her dreams regardless of any obstacles that come her way. I attend many industry events where the panelists are too often men in grey suits and where the women are always outnumbered. That needs to change.

Lindsay Bosonotto, Product Designer and CMF Specialist, Factorydesign

Lindsay Bosonotto

As senior designer and CMF (colour, materials, finishes) specialist at Factorydesign, Lindsay runs CMF projects with clients and material suppliers around world. She identifies new material opportunities for global airlines and delivers tailored material innovation solutions. She is responsible for creating detailed CMF specifications for Airbus and Boeing as well as other aircraft component manufacturers.

Lindsay’s work includes concept design, 3-D modelling and rendering, product design, aircraft design/interiors and trend forecasting. Some of her more memorable projects include working on the Etihad Airways Airbus A380 and A350, Boeing 787 and 777X, the Four Seasons 757 private jet, Delta Air Lines’ A350 DeltaOne Suite, and the Aer Lingus A320neo.

Lindsay graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2004 with a first-class BSC honors degree in product design. In her spare time, she has played competitive netball at county league level and is now a mother of one.

There can be feelings of jealousy or rivalry between women in business. Do you think this is true in aviation?

Jealousy is a natural emotion for men and women. The key is to use it to drive your ambition to succeed and not to create a mask to hide it. My mum always tells me, “If someone is constantly trying to better you, take it as a compliment.” She is right. It means you’re doing something right.

“At university I was one of 5 girls on an 80-strong course.” – Lindsay Bosonotto, Factorydesign

Do you have a network of female friends or co-workers in the industry that you rely on for guidance, advice, support or even just bit of comic relief?

At university I was one of 5 girls on an 80-strong course. At work I’m in the minority too. It’s important for me to acknowledge the women I work with and make friends with them, including competitors in the industry. When work is your hobby and that’s mutual, it’s easier to make friends because you already share a common interest in what you do.

Tell us about a woman in the industry you admire and respect.

Ilse Crawford is a design icon whose values I admire. She puts people first through design. In her early career, Ilse worked as the launch editor of Elle Decoration where she shared her new way of design thinking, all about well-being empowerment. Ilse then established the interiors firm Studio Ilse which designed the Soho House club in New York, Babington House in Somerset, as well as pieces for Ikea. She founded the well-being department at the design academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands where she works with the next generation of designers, giving them the toolkit they need to develop their own voice.