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 labour 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 how gender equality isn’t just a woman’s issue, and provides perspectives from both men and women working in the aviation industry.

Tarush Agarwal, Head of Business Development and Partnerships, Toca Boca

Tarush Agarwal is the head of Business Development and Partnerships at Toca Boca. Based in San Francisco, he is responsible for managing and growing the company’s digital presence and revenue through strategic partnerships globally. Prior to Toca Boca, Tarush lead business development for the Walt Disney Company in Los Angeles and New York.

Last month, EasyJet’s newly appointed CEO asked the board to cut his salary to meet that of his female predecessor. Have you or one of your male colleagues ever taken a stand on gender inequality (either by taking a pay cut, raising awareness or introducing an initiative to promote gender equality in the workplace)?

 At Toca Boca, gender equality is one of our core values and an important component of both our product development and work culture. Everything we make is designed for kids ‹– not girls or boys – just kids. We think that, if we are going to create a more equal society and workplace, it starts with the toys our kids play with. Because toys and play have such a large impact on how kids relate to others, it is our responsibility as a leading developer to offer diverse products. But it’s not just our products – our president and COO is a woman, three quarters of our management team are female, and half the members of my team are women. We are proud to be a part of this culture.

“Most of the best managers I’ve ever had have been women.” — Tarush Agarwal, Toca Boca

How can professional women initiate productive discussions about closing the gender gap in the workplace in a way that is inclusive of their male colleagues?

I think developing relationships through mentorship is key. Most of the best managers I’ve ever had have been women. I believe seeking mentors early in your career (both men and women) can positively help you navigate your professional career. If enough people do, it can also have a macro impact in the workplace.

Ieva Baradouska, Head of Marketing and Communications, Vanema

Ieva is an international marketing expert with over 12 years of experience in design and product development, new brand creation and launches in the global marketplace. She started her career at Studio Moderna Latvia, a leading multi-channel retailer, in 2003 as project manager and has taken different brand management positions across different countries. She moved to Switzerland in 2008 to work as an international sales and marketing manager at Studio Moderna, where she was part of the team expanding the Dormeo brand across 30 markets and creating a new brand: Octaspring.

In 2011, Ieva joined Studio Moderna Brand International team in the UK, focusing heavily on new product design and development, and comfort perception and optimization. Ieva joined the aviation industry in 2017 with the startup Vanema as head of Marketing and Communications, taking on the challenge of bringing disruptive seating technology Octaspring to the aerospace industry.  

Ieva completed communications studies at the University of Latvia, and an MBA in business administration at the University of Ljubljana. She is currently undergoing the personal challenge of becoming a Master of Wine by obtaining a WSET Diploma.

What advice would you give to a man who would like to participate in breaking down barriers to gender equality in the workplace?

The biggest step anybody can make in breaking down gender inequality is to include women and give us the opportunity to prove our ability to deliver the same, if not better, results. The results that the female vision can create, especially in the world of aesthetics, and our ability to imagine and empathize with passengers (especially female) could bring in a new era of the passenger journey from the first touchpoint in the airport to the comfort in the cabin. I truly believe that there is a need for female touch in the industry that would be more passenger- than profit-orientated ­– this, in my opinion, would be beneficial for both the businesses and the passengers.

“Give us the opportunity to prove our ability to deliver the same, if not better, results.” — Ieva Baradouska

Have you worked with any men who have taken a stand on gender inequality?

I have met men who have stepped down from their personal ambitions to let their female partners take the opportunity to succeed in business. However, it is a rarity in the heavily male-dominated mattress and aviation industries. Lack of female leaders creates a much more challenging environment for professional women to achieve their ambitions as we have to work so much harder to be treated as equals.

Tanguy Morel, Cofounder and CEO, Interactive Mobility

Tanguy was formerly the business development director of a consulting group. Today he drives Interactive Mobility’s vision, strategy and growth. He’s always on the hunt for new and unique ways for people to reach content while on the go. As the son of a fighter pilot, Tanguy is an aviation geek, passionate about anything that concerns this fascinating industry.

How does the lack of female representation in positions of leadership negatively impact the aviation industry?

I’ve always noticed diversity adds value, especially in top-management positions. Companies that have women in senior management positions or on the board tend to have better results than companies that don’t. We know that how people perceive things is deeply influenced by culture and gender. More diversity brings nuance, fosters more critical analyses of problems and prevents premature decision-making. This is crucial when you’re approaching something as complex as aviation.

Achieving gender balance should drive our industry forward faster. I truly believe we would see more creative and innovative solutions, and more disruptive models in the transport industry. It would definitely make our industry more attractive for young talent.

“Reducing inequalities is a collective adventure. I don’t see it as women versus men.” — Tanguy Morel, Interactive Mobility

How can professional women initiate productive discussions about closing the gender gap in the workplace in a way that is inclusive of their male colleagues?

Reducing inequalities is a collective adventure. I don’t see it as women versus men. We all have to fight our stereotypes, question our behaviors and see how we perpetuate the gender gap.

Initiating discussion with men is the first fundamental step. Women may have an educational role to fulfill within a company. They can help us to be more aware of gender bias and identify our privileges. On the other hand, men are in the best position to influence organizational change and to put effective programs in place to support a new culture.