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Breaking Down Barriers!

According to estimates, women make up 20 per cent of the air cargo workforce and 12 per cent are educating themselves to join the field shortly. Diversification of roles in logistics space has been accorded top priority in digitalised and tech-savvy air cargo industry.

The Women in Aviation General Assembly held on 19 May 2022 at Dubai World Trade Centre was a significant aspect of the international airport show. Attendees from various sectors such as engineers, aviators, managers, faculty members and CEOs were present to offer their support.

CARGOTALK caught up with the UAE’s youngest woman Air Traffic Controller Jouhayna AlMheiri at the event. She said, "My role in Air Traffic Control (ATC) is very technical. The field is still a male dominated field worldwide. It is a job wherein women must have the capability to manage." AlMheiri is only the second Emirati woman to have successfully completed ATC Training in an Area Control Center in the UAE. She trained at the Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Center in Abu Dhabi. "Through this summit in Dubai, we want to encourage women of all nationalities to join this field. The support extended by the government has made us all to thrive." Later, awards were presented to those women in the GCC, leading this change.

Sarah Bowen, Vice President, Global Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Boeing offered insights about her own journey in the industry and why it is important to build a workplace where everyone prospers.

It is estimated women make up 20 per cent of the workforce in the air cargo sector and 12 per cent are made up of those, who are educating themselves to join the field shortly. “This summit has showcased women’s contribution to the industry and encouraged more to join the field by sharing a vast array of jobs that women are conquering in the field of air cargo sector,” she said. There was also a ‘CV drop off’ available to help those looking for jobs in the industry.”

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President, Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) shared case studies of colleagues in the field. Etihad Cargo, the cargo and logistics arm of Etihad Aviation Group, recently appointed Caroline Pappas as General Manager, Americas. Pappas has more than 30 years of sales and commercial experience within the air cargo sector. In her previous roles, she has been instrumental in negotiating and securing long-term contracts with global freight forwarding customers and shippers, identifying and implementing marketing and sales strategies, and identifying opportunities to increase market share and revenue.

“As Etihad Cargo continues its growth plans, I am looking forward to working closely with Mark Faulkner Director, Cargo Commercial West, Etihad Cargo and the rest of its commercial team to achieve future objectives of the carrier.”

Etihad Cargo operates daily cargo passenger flights in and out of New York, Washington and Chicago, and six flights per week in and out of Toronto. The carrier also operates two freighter cargo flights per week via Europe to Chicago, supported by an offline network.

“Another leading personality from the GCC nations, who is making rapid strides in the air cargo sector’s history in UAE is Dr. Eng. Suaad Al Shamsi,” said AlMheiri. Dr. Shamsi is one of the pioneers in the field. She explained, “The summit discussed many important aspects of gender inclusion. Every year, we organize this summit. Before organizing it, it takes us eight to 10 months of rigorous planning, right from selection of the topic, choosing the speakers and what should be the outcome of the event.”

“As one of the founding members of the Women in Aviation in the Middle East, my strategy is to make sure that we plan successful summits, which can support other women and create a positive outcome that can help the industry as well,” affirmed Dr. Eng. Shamsi.

Discussing the trajectory of diverse roles in the air cargo sector, she said, “There are many uncommon roles in this industry. My role keeps changing from a consultant to advisor, I was previously an aircraft engineer. There are a lot of women in leading roles who are decision-makers. Few people think that a women are not suitable for this industry, but as I said in my address, if a woman can run a house, she can run a department or a company or a industry.”

Among the supporters include Prince Fahad bin Mishaal bin Saud, President, Saudi Aviation Association and Chairman, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Aviation Association. She said, “He is a big supporter of our events.” AlMheiri’s TEDx talk in Dubai titled, ‘Being a part of the 0.2 per cent,’ received a lot of encouragement from youth aspiring to make up a diverse workforce.

-Abigail Mathias


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