As a company long recognized for promoting equal opportunities to all qualified people regardless of gender, there are no glass ceilings at Air Canada. Skilled women in aviation have professional roles ranging from flying the most sophisticated aircraft, working with technologically advanced airplanes and systems, providing customer service, to specialized airline operations.
Air Canada's most senior leadership positions in Asia, Europe and the USA, are also all held by trailblazing women who have oversight for business development, global sales, regulatory matters as well as running all international operations. These women of the world share their thoughts on leadership and offer advice to young women on International Women's Day:
- Gilda Romanelli: Managing Director, International Operations based in Montreal
- Kiyo Weiss: Director, Regional and Premium Sales, Asia-Pacific based in Tokyo
- Lisa Pierce: Senior Director, USA Sales and Market Development based in New York
- Margaret Skinner: Director, Sales, Europe, Middle East, Africa and India based in London
What does your role entail?
Gilda: I oversee 100 airports and I am responsible for the safety of our airport operations, the customer experience and our operational performance in Europe, Middle East, Africa, India, Asia, South Pacific, South America and the Caribbean.
Kiyo: I am responsible for passenger sales generated from Korea, Japan and the South Pacific. In addition to that, I'm also responsible for premium revenue produced in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Lisa: I am responsible for all sales in the United States. I do love my job because there is so much opportunity. Every small gain we make here makes a big difference for the company. Mostly the role involves communicating—communicating the value of Air Canada to our customers as well as finding creative ways to communicate internally with a geographically dispersed virtual team.
Margaret: I lead the sales teams in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India so essentially, I am responsible for developing and executing the overall sales and marketing plan for the region.
What does it take to be a great leader?
G: A great leader puts people first, empowers and leads by example. It's important to support and coach our people.
K: The key to a great leader is to take a chance, be passionate and never stop learning.
L: It's important for a leader to empower a diverse team to do what they do best. That means making sure the team is empowered, has the tools to do the job and knows why their work matters. It's also incredibly important to build a diverse team, which brings with it an incredible range of skill sets.
M: The key to being a great leader is to build a great team around you and to inspire confidence. And then really caring about the success of the individuals on that team.
What's your favourite part of the job?
G: Working together with my team, involving them, and looking for opportunities to take our operation and customer service to the next level.
K: Every day, I'm making changes. Air Canada in particular, respects local cultures and local needs. From the beginning, I've felt that I can make decisions.
L: My team and our customers. Although we're virtual, we're connected. We meet a couple times a year in person and it's as though we see each other every day. I love seeing my team learn and grow and, as much as they learn from me, I learn from them.
M: The variety. I love working with all the various markets, cultures and personalities.
What is a personal commitment you have made to yourself this year on IWD2019?
G: I decided to formally coach and mentor some of the young women in our organization to help them achieve their goals, though I've always informally volunteered advice to colleagues around the world. As leaders, we're also mentors and you can tell when someone needs a little bit of coaching, so I encourage people to speak up and not be afraid.
K: Whenever I am given an opportunity to speak about career and gender in general, I will make utmost effort to accept it and share my experiences to promote gender equality.
L: Today is a time to reflect. I don't think about being a woman as being different from a man in my day-to-day job. But there are unique opportunities and unique challenges for women in aviation. So, it's a time to pause and reflect on that. I do look forward to being a mentor to a female colleague this year as part of Air Canada's "Leading the Air Canada Way" program.
M: I want to inspire other women in my team to realize their full potential and I want everyone in my team to know that with a little hard work, determination and a positive attitude, anything is possible!
If a teenage girl came up to you and asked how to go about getting a job like yours, what advice would you offer?
G: Whatever job you start at and throughout your career, always work really hard. Learn as much as you can and take risks. Don't be afraid of additional responsibility – don't tell yourself, 'oh that's too big'. If you make mistakes along the way, consider it an experience and learn from it and move on. Don't underestimate yourself. Succeeding takes hard work and determination. Believe in yourself. Take every learning opportunity that you can so you progress.
K: My advice would be to take a chance, especially if it's a challenging opportunity, you should not be worried about failing or making mistakes. It's always better to take a chance and work very hard to complete your task. You will definitely grow. If someone is giving you an opportunity, it's for a reason. You may make some mistakes, or feel embarrassed a little, but that's one thing you may want to go through – and then you grow. That's an important step.
L: Go for it. Take a chance. You will figure it out. I've learned that over the years and it's a real confidence builder. And the more you do it, the more confidence you'll build and the more opportunities you'll have.
M: You must be passionate about travel, be prepared to work hard and never stop learning. Believe in yourself and don't be afraid to take a few risks. When it feels like things aren't going your way remember it's not over; everything always works out for the best in the end. Most importantly make sure you really enjoy what you do.
Coinciding with International Women's Day 2019, Lucie Guillemette, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, spoke at Aéro Montreal on diversity and equity within an organization, while Catherine Dyer, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, was a panelist at the U.S. Aviation Summit in Washington on women in aviation.