Qatar Airways boss apologizes for remarks on women CEOs

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al-Baker, foreground, took back his comments on why women could not do his job, for which International Air Transport Association chief executive Alexandre de Juniac, background, said the airline chief has expressed his apologies. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2018

Qatar Airways boss apologizes for remarks on women CEOs

SYDNEY: The head of Qatar Airways apologized on Wednesday for saying that a woman could not do his job, while global airlines pledged to speed up efforts to break down gender imbalances in aviation.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker said his remarks at the closing of a global airlines gathering on Tuesday had been intended as a joke and taken out of context.
He defended his airline’s record of gender diversity, saying 44 percent of its staff were female including some in senior positions.
“Quite frankly I think the press took it out of context. They ... blew it out of proportion. It was just a joke...I apologize for it,” Al-Baker told a CAPA-Center for Aviation conference in Sydney.
Asked on Tuesday about female employment among Middle East airlines and why his job as CEO could not be done by a woman, Al-Baker had said: “Of course it has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position.”
He made the comments at a news conference following a meeting of airlines group International Air Transport Association (IATA), moments after being elected its chairman.
The remarks drew criticism on social media.
The issue of gender imbalance in aviation was a hot topic at the three-day annual meeting of IATA — only six of whose 280-member airlines, or 2 percent, have female chief executives.
Al-Baker later said Qatar Airways was the first carrier in the Middle East to have female pilots.
On Wednesday, the director-general of IATA noted that Al-Baker had earlier apologized for his comments.
“But the immediate reaction illustrated that expectations for change are high. And it is absolutely clear that aviation has a lot of work to do on gender balance at senior levels,” Alexandre de Juniac added in a blog on IATA’s website.
Al-Baker is one of the airline industry’s most outspoken figures, known for provocative and often humorous criticism of rival airlines or suppliers, but he has also drawn criticism over the judgment of some of his declarations.
In 2017 he apologized after calling US flight attendants “grandmothers” during a trade row with US airlines, prompting an airline union to accuse him of sexism and age discrimination.
In 2014, Qatar Airways defended policies on pregnancy and marriage for cabin crew after coming under fire over working conditions in the conservative Gulf emirate.
Asked at Wednesday’s CAPA conference whether he truly believed that only a man could do his job, Al-Baker said, “No, I don’t believe that. As a matter of fact (at) Air Italy the majority shareholder has shortlisted women to be CEO and as minority shareholder we are actively encouraging that.”
Sharing a podium, Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways owner IAG, said the industry had a long way to go in promoting women, starting with IATA, a quasi-international organization with two women on its 31-person board.
“This whole debate should encourage more,” Walsh said.
“If you look at the board it is predominantly middle-aged white men from Europe. We have more diversity on the board now than we have had for a long time, and we have to strive to improve that situation.”
Al-Baker pledged to bring more women onto IATA’s board, but said there had been few applicants. Board members must be a CEO. IATA says just 3 percent of airlines have a female leader.
Delegates said seats are also divided up by region, meaning some national airlines may have to release influential board seats to favor a female candidate from their own region, but a woman in one region could not benefit from a vacancy in another.
“Bridging the gap at senior levels will not be simple,” de Juniac wrote.
The gender row comes amid a deeper debate about whether airlines based on different national social models, recruitment policies and wage structures can compete on equal terms.
US and some European airlines have accused Gulf carriers of unfair competition based on subsidies and social policies, but Walsh — whose group counts Qatar Airways as a shareholder — said he believed Gulf airlines competed on an equal footing.


Saudi Aramco iktva forum kicks off in Dhahran

Updated 14 min 31 sec ago

Saudi Aramco iktva forum kicks off in Dhahran

  • Iktva has become one of the Kingdom’s most important and strategic programs focused on developing the energy sector and creating a world-class supply chain
  • The program aims to reach 70 percent local content, increase exports of Saudi-made energy goods and services, and create thousands of jobs

DHAHRAN: Saudi Aramco’s 5th annual iktva (In-Kingdom Total Value Add) forum kicked off on Monday at the Dhahran Expo center, with over 70 exhibitors, 14 government entities, and 8 international energy partners all present at the mega-event.

Iktva was launched by Saudi Aramco in 2015 to drive increased levels of localization in its supply chain. 

Amin Nasser, President and CEO of Aramco, highlighted the success of the event and how the forum has contributed to the kingdom’s reputation internationally and locally.

“The iktva Forum and Exhibition 2020 represents an ideal opportunity to continue to build on the enormous progress which has already been made in creating an integrated supply chain for the oil field service industry, serving not just the Kingdom but the entire region. As you know, we take great pride in our low-cost production, and our reputation for reliability. A first-class supply chain is a critical factor that makes both possible,” he said.

He also indicated that the success of the event could be seen in the numbers.

“For the first time, the majority of our procurement is from in-kingdom: 56 percent to be exact. Our suppliers have tripled their local purchases of goods and services, their employment of Saudis is up 50 percent, and female employment has increased by almost a third. Our suppliers are exporting 50 percent more from the kingdom, because of iktva,”

Aramco signed 66 initial agreements and strategic and commercial collaborations valued at more than $21 billion with international partner companies and entities from 11 countries in several industrial and business sectors across the Saudi Arabian energy sector.

In addition, a joint venture agreement with Baker Hughes was also signed. The joint venture will be a multi-sectorial non-metallic investment platform designed to innovate, develop and manufacture composite materials for both oil and gas as well as non-oil and gas applications.

The venture will leverage polymer materials and state-of-the-art manufacturing processes to deliver transformational non-metallic products, starting with reinforced thermoplastic pipes. The JV facility will be located at the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK), and will serve the MENA region. 

Launched in 2015, iktva has become one of the Kingdom’s most important and strategic programs focused on developing the energy sector and creating of a world-class supply chain. The program aims to reach 70 percent local content, increase exports of Saudi-made energy goods and services, and create thousands of technical and professional jobs and careers.