IATA’s Inspirational Role Model Award winner said the air transport industry must steer away from outdated gender roles.

Christine Ourmieres-Widener

By Patrick Appleton

Christine Ourmieres-Widener has said boys and girls should be encouraged to aspire to the same jobs from an early age.

Winning the Inspirational Role Model accolade at the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Diversity & Inclusion Awards, the Flybe CEO said the industry must steer away from outdated views regarding job roles in aviation.

“Young girls need to be encouraged to have the same dreams and ambitions as young boys—two plus two equals four, whether you are a girl or a boy,” she said.

“And gaining an aeronautical degree or qualifying as a pilot should automatically be seen as achievable by all, regardless of gender. This attitude needed to be instilled at an early age.”

Wherever you go, whoever you speak to, tell the youths that an engineer is a woman, a pilot is a woman, a CEO is a woman

Ourmieres-Widener was recognized for inspiring young people and young women to join the aviation industry, having worked as an engineer on Concorde before eventually rising to Flybe CEO.

The airline boss also introduced the FlyShe initiative, designed to change aspirations and create opportunities for women while also addressing the future skills shortage in aviation.

She thanked IATA and Qatar Airways for working to establish the inaugural awards and said it “put a much-needed spotlight” on an issue that can transform the air transport industry.

“To encourage and inspire young girls to consider aviation as a viable option there needs to be more emphasis on steering towards science, engineering, technology and mathematics,” said Ourmieres-Widener.

“You are never too early to start motivating ambition and we need to change the perception of our industry as a diverse, exciting, modern and fun place to be.

“I hope to use my career, experience and network to push the gender ceiling as high as possible.”

Flybe’s CEO added that girls “cannot be what they cannot see” and called for more inspirational role models, which would encourage a large underrepresented part of the population to pursue a career in aviation and address future skills shortages.

In helping to tackle this, Ourmieres-Widener said she will use her $25,000 winning prize to fund an Msc diploma in air transport at Cranfield University in the UK and offer her own personal mentorship to the successful candidate.

“Wherever you go, whoever you speak to, tell the youths that an engineer is a woman, a pilot is a woman, a CEO is a woman,” she said.

“Together, we can lead our industry into a fully diverse and inclusive future for the success of all.”