Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, is proud to report that its Chief Executive Officer, Christine Ourmières-Widener, has received the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) first-ever Inspirational Role Model Award. It is the most prominent of three categories featured in the organisation’s inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Awards which, sponsored by Qatar Airways, attracted 68 nominations.
Christine was presented with the prestigious Award and US$25k in prize money jointly by Alexandre de Juniac, IATA Director-General and Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker, during the influential aviation trade association’s Annual General Meeting being held in the South Korean capital, Seoul.
In thanking IATA and the sponsors for their insight in proactively progressing the agenda relating to diversity and inclusion, Ms Ourmières-Widener said: “I am very honoured to be the first woman to receive this Inspirational Role Model Award. I am passionate about diversity and inclusion. Although significant strides have been made towards addressing the issue of gender imbalance across the general workforce, the aviation sector remains very male- dominated.
“I’d like to see more women at all levels – as pilots, in operations and engineering, and in management roles. There needs to be a clear push to get women to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics from an early age. Young women cannot be what they cannot see.”
Last year, Christine spearheaded the launch of Flybe’s widely-acclaimed FlyShe programme. With its own dedicated website, www.flyshe.com, it is a series of initiatives designed to change aspirations and create opportunities for women, providing educational materials, visiting schools, offering training and organising events to raise the sights of young girls everywhere. It has received extensive coverage for its potential to help address the future skills’ shortages facing aviation.
Christine has determined to use the Award’s US$25k prize-money to further support diversity and inclusion within the industry. “My intention is to use it to sponsor a placement at Cranfield University for one deserving young woman and to offer her ongoing mentorship. I am very much looking forward to launching the selection process as soon as possible. More information for interested candidates is available on Cranfield University’s website.”
Her own career path provides in itself an inspirational role model for young women looking to forge a career in aviation. From starting as a young aeronautical engineer in Air France’s maintenance department, Christine has worked her way up through various high-profile roles on multiple continents before becoming Flybe CEO. Her appointment last year as one of only two women on IATA’s 31-member Board of Governors has made her a ‘go-to’ speaker and commentator on issues facing women in aviation. An upcoming example of this will be her hosting of a session at IATA’s Women in Aviation course in Geneva this autumn.
IATA represents some 290 airlines, equating to 82% of the world’s total air traffic, and, with ten million people working throughout the aviation industry, it is important that this large workforce reflects the diversity and inclusion of global society at large.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Congratulations to Christine Ourmières-Widener, a key aviation figure and colleague for receiving IATA’s inaugural Inspirational Role Model Award. This award reflects Ms. Ourmières-Widener’s charismatic and outgoing character, which has positively impacted the aviation industry as a whole.”
Alexandre de Juniac comments: “IATA has created this Award to honour an Inspirational Role Model who has demonstrated a significant impact on the aviation agenda and who is contributing towards the work being done to take the industry into the future. On behalf of IATA, I would like to congratulate Ms Ourmières-Widener wholeheartedly for being such a worthy winner and for her outstanding passion and commitment to making sure that diversity and inclusion remains firmly on everyone’s agenda.”