The women of Ethiopian Airlines

women airlinesLEADER. On this year’s international women’s day, Ethiopian Airlines, the largest airline in Africa, launches an “all women operated flight” to Buenos Aires. This means that all staff on board, from pilot to cabin crew, and all functions on the ground, are women. The company’s CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, presents the line as part of the company’s efforts to make its business long-term sustainable, to encourage more women to choose the aviation industry and to make better use of the African female labor force.

CEO GebreMariam has also drawn attention to the announcement of more aircraft adapted for women’s needs, such as changing tables for toilets, breast room and breast milk refrigeration.

The grip of “all women operated flight” began in 2015 with a line from Addis Ababa to Bangkok with the now-known pilot Amsale Gualu.

An opportunistic trick for an expanding airline? Perhaps that, but for a fast-growing and highly specialized service industry like the aviation industry, recruiting women is a question of life and death.

The growth of the aircraft in Asia in particular will require over 500,000 graduated pilots by 2034, World Travel Magazine reported this summer when it wrote about the campaigns for more female pilots, who currently make up three percent of the corps globally.

For a company like Ethiopian, it’s pure mathematics. From low levels, the proportion of female students has rapidly reached 40 percent at the universities of Ethiopia. To grow, you must be able to recruit women and you have to show that you want to.

The education pattern is the same throughout the world. Women’s share is increasing rapidly and in the richer parts, women have long been in the majority. In the United States, 2017 started 11.5 million women and 8.9 million men higher education, in the EU, women were in majority in all countries except Germany and Greece, where men still have a small head start.

In a country such as Sweden, women’s dominance is massive. The academic year 2015/16 was 243,000 women registered at the university, compared to 160,000 men. 50 percent of all women between the ages of 25 and 34 have college education, compared with 23 percent of men. No other factor today is so crucial for the degree of higher education as gender.

The labor market in the public sector has long been fully accessible to higher educated female labor. According to statistics, it is easy for women to do senior careers in municipalities, state and county councils. Meritocracy works.

In the private business sector, it is significantly slower. One can argue what it depends on – free individuals’ free elections or discreet but effective gender discrimination – but the consequence is that important sectors of society in practice do not have access to half the educational potential.

One way to do this is to show, like Ethiopian Airlines, that you want something else.

This newspaper has always argued against government-directed quota of corporate boards. It is the owners’ responsibility to decide who will represent them on the board. Nor is there any justice issue to sit on boards. No individual or collective category is entitled to work at a high level in a company. You should qualify.

However, this does not prevent the owners actively seeking female candidates and the CEOs actively select and educate women to management teams to show that the company is an attractive employer for half the population and in the near future for 75 percent of those with higher education.

In the annual reports, if photographs of management and board of directors printed with a gender balance worse than the Saudi government, it indicates that women here do not reach the top. And that’s mild expression which is not good for a company that has imagined a life after the female education explosion.

By the way, men have also everything to gain from the development. Their mothers and wives will earn more, raising income and growth.


Dagens Industry


By PM NILSSON                                                    Published: March 7, 2018