Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has apologised for saying that his job could not be done by a woman, as it is a very challenging position. Al Baker was addressing a news conference about female employment among Middle East airlines at the annual IATA meet in Sydney, when he was asked why his job as Chief Executive could not be done by a woman. To this Al Baker said, “Of course it has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position”.
He, however, apologised for his statement on Wednesday, saying that it was meant as a joke, but was taken out of context.
“Quite frankly, I think the press took it out of context. They … blew it out of proportion. It was just a joke. I didn’t mean it in the way it was meant to be … I apologise for it.”
There are numerous male public figures who try to pass off their derogatory remarks about women as a joke, in wake of criticism. But does an apology mean that they have learned their lesson?
Al Baker represents the sexism that infests the aviation industry boardrooms
As per a report in The Indian Express, only six out of 280 members of the International Air Transport Association have female executives on board. This gender disparity arises, among other things, from the sexist mindset of male executives like Al Baker, who consider top aviation profiles to be suitable ‘only’ for men.
Such a regressive mindset keeps worthy women out of positions they rightly deserve.
But it also reduces the worth of the position. All it takes to become a CEO of an airline is high levels of testosterone? Women have been fighting for centuries to break gender stereotypes which label certain profiles as a“man’s job”. The logic here is that some jobs need physical strength, stamina and grit which apparently women lack. Thus, women are deemed unfit to hold these offices because men hold a generalised view about their gender. This bias pushes worth and capabilities in the backseat. But who loses more? Women or the industry which is denied talented leaders due to gender bias?
Women are running banks, countries, managing businesses and flying planes today. Even within the aviation industry, gone are the days when women were restricted to cabin jobs. They are a vital part of the ground staff and technical teams. These women need some representation in management. They need women in executive positions, because only women can understand the difficulties other women face in this industry.
Instead of discrediting women’s potential, Al Baker and company must sense the changing tide.
The world is waking up to women empowerment. You cannot get away with sexist comments anymore. However, what matters more is that men like him learn from their mistakes. The CEO can keep his half-hearted apology. What the industry needs is a conscious effort to get rid of gender stereotyping. Just give worthy women a chance at these positions.
Photo Credit : Wiki Commons
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.