Women in PaxEx: Across Generations

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 what the industry can do to narrow the gender gap now and for future generations.

Katie Goshgarian, Executive Director, APEX

Katie GoshgarianKatie Goshgarian is currently the executive director for the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), where she is responsible for the day-to-day operations, managing of the global staff, as well as ensuring the strategic objectives set by the Board of Directors are achieved. Promoted after serving as general manager for more than eight years, Katie is APEX’s first female executive director.

Katie has also had the privilege of serving as the associate director for the National Society for Healthcare Foodservice Management (HFM), the executive director for the Home Fashion Products Association (HFPA), and the certification director for the Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP). At the ETCP, she led the development, implementation, promotion and fundraising of three new certification programs and acted as their public representative. She also gained extensive certification and medical association management experience as the coordinator for the American Board of Sleep Medicine, which certifies sleep medicine doctors and PhDs.

Katie earned two bachelor of arts degrees, in economics and psychology, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000. Growing up, she played baseball with her younger brother, where she was the only girl in the league. Most recently, Katie completed her third half marathon and first triathlon in the summer of 2017.

How can we empower young men and women to continue making progress with regard to gender equality in aviation and elsewhere?

In regards to gender equality in the workplace, we have reached an exciting time. The heightened level of awareness is, in my opinion, moving in the right direction. People are more conscious about the words they choose. Specifically when it comes to addressing young girls or boys. Instead of merely complimenting a girl’s outfit, an adult may now ask her what she wants to do when she gets older. And a boy may be asked if he wants to be a nurse. As the mom of a young boy and girl, I believe these thoughtful conversations will reinforce to our kids that anything is possible, regardless of their gender.

“I look forward to seeing more women at APEX events and throughout our industry.” – Katie Goshgarian, APEX

In 10 years, will there still be a gender gap in the aviation industry?

As more women enter the workforce, we naturally see a closing of the gender gap. I believe this trend will continue within aviation over the next 10 years. Look at the the medical industry as an example: For the first time in history, there are more females than males in medical school. Other industries are experiencing this trend. I look forward to seeing more women at APEX events and throughout our industry – including hearing more announcements from female pilot on future flights!

Laurence Fornari, Founder & Head of Sales, SkyLights

Laurence Fornari

Laurence Fornari is founder and head of Sales at immersive in-flight entertainment (IFE) provider SkyLights. Her 15+ year career has revolved around major disruptive technologies in video and mobile devices, and has taken her from France to Silicon Valley to Montréal. She has spent her entire career launching new products – often being the only woman in tech and sales meetings.

Upon completing a data processing master of science degree, Laurence started her career in the Thomson Thales research lab, serving the defense, security and space industries. In 1999, she joined Cadence, a leading microelectronics design company in Silicon Valley, where she transitioned from engineering to sales to marketing roles. During the early days of embedded video architecture and multimillion-dollar startups, she joined Packet Video in San Diego, California, as senior account manager, where she pioneered video streaming and mobile TV for Europe. She went on to open the European headquarters for Bluestreak, a freshly financed Canadian embedded graphic engine provider. In 2011, she founded her own startup, Ikon Associates, which she sold in 2017.

She met her SkyLights’s co-founders while working toward her executive MBA in Innovation in a Digital World, at Paris Tech – TEM. Launching SkyLights in 2015, she brought to the table her entrepreneurial experience and expertise in disruptive technologies, sales and secure video content platforms.

What would your advice be to a young woman interested in a career in your field?

Mobile has been disrupted by the iPhone, TV by Netflix and taxis by Uber. The aviation industry is ready to be changed in the same way and women tend to be better at adapting in response to disruption. As such, it’s a great time to engage in this increasingly dynamic but conservative industry.

‘The expertise of men and women should be highlighted equally.” – Laurence Fornari, SkyLights

How can we empower young men and women to continue making progress with regard to gender equality in aviation and elsewhere?

Empower them every day in their role and mission, keep them accountable for their tasks and hire different genders and nationalities so that everyone can see that it is possible to work together. Also, the expertise of men and women should be highlighted equally, building role models of all genders within the company.

Catherine Brown, Head of Marketing, Bluebox Aviation Systems

Catherine Brown

Catherine Brown is head of Marketing at Bluebox Aviation Systems, which provides airlines and their passengers with portable and wireless IFE systems. 

In 2016, Catherine joined AviIT, an aviation software business, as head of Marketing and member of the senior management team. In 2017, AviIT and its joint venture Bluebox Avionics combined under a single new company, Bluebox Aviation Systems, and Catherine took on marketing responsibilities across the combined businesses.

With over 20 years of commercial experience across various technical industries,­ telecommunications, electronics, oil and gas, and, now, aviation software, ­ Catherine’s focus has been on strategic marketing, including market and competitive intelligence, new product development and account development.

Outside of Bluebox, Catherine sits on the Advisory Board of Trisent, a technology startup developing a unique blockchain-based personal data browser.

Catherine holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, and a bachelor of arts from the University of Toronto. Catherine is also a chartered marketer and member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK.

What would your advice be to a young woman interested in a career in your field?

There’s valid focus on encouraging young women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects to address gender imbalance in certain industries, but a technical degree isn’t the only path into aviation tech. Don’t turn away from this exciting sector because you don’t see yourself as an engineer or software developer. Strategic marketing will require you to understand how technology works, competitive technologies and what could impact demand or future product developments­, but this knowledge can be developed over time, so get in the door with transferrable skills, whether those are commercial, industrial product design, communications, customer services, etc.

“A technical degree isn’t the only path into aviation.”– Catherine Brown, Bluebox Aviation Systems

In 10 years, will there still be a gender gap in the aviation industry?

Until unconscious biases about gender change in both men and women, progress toward real equality will be tough, no matter how strong the push for it in any single industry. As explicit as laws and corporate policies are, they don’t easily shift the way we are conditioned to think from birth. But events of the past year have shone a light into the darkest corners of inequality. And now, encouragingly, more people are challenging those biases in constructive ways when they see them play out. If that momentum builds, the gap will be much smaller in 10 years.