Recent appointments show a chipping away of the glass ceiling in the US airline industry 

There have been a slew of executive level changes in the US airline industry in the last few weeks – from the departure of United’s CFO to long-time Allegiant executive Lukas Johnson assuming the CEO role of Canadian upstart ULCC Jetlines. But perhaps the most promising developments centre on the appointment of women in key executive and board roles at US carriers.


Summary:

  • JetBlue Airways, United Airlines and Alaska Air Group have promoted women to key executive roles within their organisations, a major development in the US airline industry;
  • JetBlue has split up the roles of CEO and President with Joanna Geraghty taking on the role of president and COO and overseeing day-to-day operations of the airline and its commercial team;
  • United has elevated current board chair and former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey to the chairperson position, while Alaska Air Group also recently named Facebook VP of Finance Susan Li to is board of directors;
  • These developments are welcome steps to ensure a crucial level of diversity in the C-Suite, and on top-level board of director positions at US airlines.

JetBlue has split up the roles of CEO and President with Joanna Geraghty taking on the role of president and COO. The 45-year old Ms Geraghty will oversee day-to-day operations of the airline and oversee the airline’s commercial team. Prior to the changes Robin Hayes served as JetBlue’s CEO and President since 2015, but will now focus on long-term strategy and the company’s structural cost improvement programme.

Me Geraghty is a 13-year veteran of JetBlue and served most recently as EVP of customer experience. She is the only female serving in the President role of any major US airline. Regional operator Cape Air named Linda Markham as its President in 2013.

After former Air Canada CEO Robert Milton stepped down as United’s Board chair, the airline elevated current board chair and former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey to the chairperson position.

Unsurprisingly, Ms Garvey is the airline’s first female board chair, and assumes the role after current CEO Oscar Munoz was originally slated to assume the position in 2018. But a high profile incident of a passenger being dragged off a plane in 2017 resulted in United’s board concluding separating the roles of CEO and Chairman would be more beneficial.

Alaska Air Group, which is also merging with Virgin America, also recently named Facebook VP of Finance Susan Li to is board of directors. At the time of her appointment, Alaska touted that 45% of its board seats are held by women.

All of these developments are welcome steps to ensure a crucial level of diversity in the C-Suite, and on top-level board of director positions at US airlines. However, those companies have a long road ahead in ensuring they build a crucial level of diversity in their executive ranks to remain competitive over the next few years.

The Blue Swan Daily reported earlier this year on the gender pay gap and highlighted the United Kingdom as a country with one of the widest gender pay gaps in Europe. In general, salary research shows that for every pound that men earn, women make just 80p, and little has changed since the start of the millennium.

Last month companies across the UK had to disclose gender pay differences and it emerged the gap between salaries is significant. The legislation, which required companies with more than 250 staff to publish a specific set of statistics including the gap between the mean and median pay of men and of women in their firms by 04-Apr-2018, delivered a new layer of detail about how the pay of women differs from that of men. You can read our insight here: