The irony is rich.
Just 10 minutes after promising not to make any controversial statements during his new tenure as International Air Transport Association (IATA) Chair,
— Adrian Schofield (@AvWeekScho) June 5, 2018
Akbar Al-Baker, also known as His Excellently, said the following when asked about whether a woman could lead his airline.
“Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position.”
The audible gasp from the crowd as @qatarairways GCEO and @IATA Chairman Akbar Al Baker "jokes" only a man can be a CEO is amazing. Listen for yourself. @Qantas CEO Alan Joyce cutting him off was both good and bad, I suppose. #IATAAGM #iawa @WomenInAviation @WomenOfAviation pic.twitter.com/rrrFND3G5E
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) June 5, 2018
That did not go over well. Groans, moans, and even some boos emerged from journalists in the room. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who was on stage with him, promptly cut him off.
Recognizing that his “joke” did not go over well, Akbar latter stressed how Qatar Airways is a leader in employing women adding, “So we actually encourage women. We see that they have huge potential in doing senior management positions.”
In fact, Akbar even left open the possibility for a CEO candidate…provided that he trains her:
“It will be my pleasure to have a female CEO candidate I could then develop to become CEO after me.”
But it was too little too late. Like the ageist grandmother comments earlier this year, the damage had been done. Ironically, gender equality had been a central theme at the IATA annual meeting
Official “Apology” from Qatar Airways
Al Baker’s office issued the following statement, signed by the chief himself:
Qatar Airways firmly believes in gender equality in the workplace and our airline has been a pioneer in our region in this regard, as the first airline to employ female pilots, as one of the first to train and employ female engineers, and with females represented through to senior vice president positions within the airline. With a female work force of more than 33%, as I mentioned today, it would be my pleasure if I could help develop a female candidate to be the next CEO of Qatar Airways.
Whenever Akbar speaks, I think of this commercial from Southwest Airlines:
If Akbar was clever, he would have said something like a woman would take one look at the historically low margins and gruesome politics involved in running an airline, and smartly conclude that the capital would be better invested in other sources.
When it comes to treatment of women, perhaps Al Baker should seek new friends…
(H/T: One Mile at a Time)