WestJet CEO Pledges To Help Women Soar In The Airline

Canada’s second-largest airline WestJet is pledging to ensure that there are more women in leadership, aviation and technical positions. The announcement was made by the airline’s CEO on March 2nd in support of National Women in Aviation Week and International Women’s Day. In addition to the announcement, WestJet released a video that emphasizes “the need to increase the numbers of women who have careers in aviation”.

WestJet CEO Pledges To Help Women Soar In The Airline
The airline’s latest video highlights the need for more women in aviation. Photo: WestJet

“We are proud to be among those leading the field for the inclusion of women in the flight deck. But, WestJet can do better…Leaders, including myself, must pledge to listen to the voices of women who work in all areas of aviation, recognize their potential, and support their growth and development. Strong male and female advocates are necessary, and I am dedicated to helping WestJet’s women soar.” -Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO

Pursuing a better gender balance

The airline claims that it has the third-highest percentage of female pilots in North America as far as global airlines are concerned. The numbers are based on figures from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots. The society defines “Global airline” as a network carrier flying outside of North America.

Although it has the title of third-highest percentage, this number is a fairly low 7% – which makes complete sense why this initiative is needed. Unfortunately, the industry average is even lower, sitting at just 5%.

However, with commercial aviation growing rapidly there are more and more opportunities to shift these numbers. This year, WestJet will focus on actively reducing the gender gap on its global leadership team. It will do this by launching a new and aptly named “Women in Leadership Program” with the intent to facilitate the growth and development of managers.

WestJet has also partnered with an organization by the name of Elevate Aviation. Elevate’s mission is to “create a shift in the aviation industry and promote gender balance by connecting women with a network of support” – WestJet’s partnership will support Elevate’s goal.

WestJet Boeing 737
WestJet will also be making sure that they tend to the new rules in place. Photo: WestJet

“We need more visibility of women succeeding in various roles within the industry…The aviation industry is diverse in opportunities and we need to do a better job of reflecting that.” -Ashlee Tanner, WestJet, Manager, Fleet Engineering

Similar initiatives around the world

The initiative by WestJet is along the same lines as one launched by IATA almost half a year ago. The “25 by 2025” initiative aims to stimulate a boost in gender diversity within the aviation industry by the year 2025.

At the 2019 IATA Wings Of Change Europe conference, 30 airline CEOs publicly signed a pledge to get more women into key positions at their organizations. The airlines represented at the conference were:

Aegean Airlines, airBaltic, Air Corsica, Air Dolomiti, Air France, Atlantic Airways, Austrian Airlines, Blue Air, Brussels Airlines, Bulgarian Air, Edelweiss Air, Euro Atlantic Airways, Eurowings, Finnair, Flybe, Georgian Airlines, Hann Air, Hi Fly, Icelandair, Lufthansa Cargo, Lufthansa Cityline, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Pegasus Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Somon Air, Swiss International Airlines and Ukraine International Airlines.

Airbaltic gender balance
30 airlines signed up to the 25by2025 pledge. Photo: IATA

WestJet’s week-long campaign

With this week being Women in Aviation Week (March 2-8) and International Women’s Day on March 8, WestJet will be featuring and recognizing women in leadership, aviation and technical operations positions within its organization.

The schedule for WestJet’s campaign is as follows:

  • Monday, March 2 – WestJet Women in Aviation:  Committed to Change video
  • Tuesday, March 3 – Ashlee Tanner, WestJet, Manager, Fleet Engineering
  • Wednesday, March 4 – Patricia Gauthier, WestJet Regional Manager, International Airports
  • Thursday, March 5 – Colleen Tynan, WestJet, Director of Contact Centre
  • Friday, March 6 – Rose Streete, WestJet, Cabin Crew Member
  • Saturday, March 7 – Virginia Svilans, WestJet, 737 First Officer
  • Sunday, March 8 – All-female WestJet flight 1516 (YYC-PHX), WestJet Encore flight 3163 (YYC-YLW), Ed Sims, WestJet, President and CEO, International Women’s Day Feature

The airline says that these feature pieces will be available across all of its channels, and online at Westjet.com/womeninaviation.