This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Choose to Challenge and at Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) we’ve acknowledged the need to build greater diversity in our workplace with a particular focus on increasing the representation of women and Indigenous people within our company. This is something we track annually in our Sustainability and Annual Reports. We also know that we need to have the courage to support all voices and challenge inequality when we see it to bring through the change. Not just on International Women’s Day. But EVERY DAY.
International Women’s Day also kicks off Women of Aviation Week, a week that observes the anniversary of the world’s first female pilot license on 8 March 1910, and aims to address the continued gender imbalance in the air and space industry.
We asked these courageous People of BNE to share their thoughts and experiences to support and inspire more conversations about equality and diversity in our workplace and industry.
Melissa Taggart, International Facilitation Manager, Terminal Operations, BAC
What do you want to see challenged in the workplace?
“History shows that women have mostly had males as mentors in the workplace. I would like to see this challenged and provide the ability for women to have access to mentorship from other women. Providing an opportunity for women to get insight and advice from other professional women facing similar challenges and career paths would allow for many growth opportunities. I feel BAC is well positioned to deliver on this challenge with many leadership roles currently already held by women.”
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome in your career so far?
“Returning to work full time after maternity leave, my biggest challenge has been navigating motherhood whilst building a career. I often questioned myself “can I have it all?” The negative narratives associated with returning to work with small children may not be the best choice albeit a selfish one. I strongly believe that there are many reasons that women should feel empowered to continue their chosen career path after having children. By finding the right balance, creating time to spend time with my family and identifying what is important, I feel that I can set a positive example for women wanting to pursue a family and a career simultaneously.”
Hannah Stanley, VP – Aviation Business Development, BAC
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #ChooseToChallenge, what do you choose to challenge?
“Something that I aim to challenge not only in the workplace but in my personal life is unconscious bias. While conscious bias is of course an issue, unconscious bias occurs unknowingly and as such is much more difficult to identify and address, though it can be very destructive.
I think it is important to not only #choosetochallenge others, but also oneself. The onus does not fall on a particular group of people to challenge unconscious bias, it sits with all of us. It can be uncomfortable, but it is essential because each of us play a part to create a more inclusive world where everyone has equal opportunity to achieve their full potential, irrespective of gender.
From the perspective of gender - as a young female in a typically male dominated industry, there has been some challenges along the way. Rather than singular events, the most pervasive challenge I have faced has been in the form of prejudice and gender stereotyping, which I have experienced consistently and regularly in my career. To overcome these, I have either directly challenged them or effectively chosen to prove myself, disproving their assumptions and biases.
I must also add that I have been incredibly fortunate in my career to have been very supported, so have regularly had colleagues (both male and female) that have been advocates for me and have themselves challenged some of the bias I have faced along the way.
International Women’s Day provides a platform for the dialogue of gender equality to be brought to the forefront of everyone’s minds and an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, but also as a reminder to us all that we need to continue to take action for equality, every day.”
Tammy Loewe, Team Leader – Airside Operations, BAC
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career so far?
“Breaking down barriers and perceptions. Becoming an Airside Operations Officer was one of the most challenging experiences I have ever undertaken, there were many times that I second guessed my ability. I had spent most of my career on the corporate side of the business and I was now moving into a frontline, very hands-on operational role. I could feel the judgement of others - well intentioned or otherwise. I had to dig deep, work hard, and persevere. The lessons I learnt along the way was to ask questions, respect experience, and focus on doing each task to the best of my ability, and it paid off and became one of my biggest accomplishments.
Historically, Airside Operations had very low female representation within the group and at times only one female Airside Operations Officer. Like many other frontline operational roles, it had the reputation as a ‘man’s role’. The recent recruitment initiative by BAC has seen those numbers grow to the current six female Airside Operations Officers which is a testament to the support and acknowledgment BAC puts behind improving diversity within the workplace. This I feel has begun the next evolution of Airside Operations with a very obvious positive change within our team. It makes my heart sing."
Kersty Christensen, Head of Workplace Health & Safety, BAC
What does International Women's Day mean to you?
"This one may be a bit controversial – but the concept of women’s only conferences and training sessions is still very prevalent and, perhaps, a little outdated in of itself. Only a couple of years ago I was invited to a women’s workshop where one of the sessions was “What to do when you know you’re going to cry”.
Earlier in my career, I remember having members of my peer group at work actually ask and expect me to make the coffees, set up meeting rooms or take minutes of meetings, because of my gender. I like to think I’m not that old, so it’s really only a few years ago that this attitude towards women was not just held, but openly exhibited at the time. The good thing is seeing men now stepping up when they see this behaviour – because it really isn’t ok in 2021, it’s a work environment issue and it’s not something women should be expected to address on their own.
I like to think the times are changing. Despite my personal encounters in years past, women older than me had many challenges and many women working in Australia today just haven’t had that experience at all. Whilst we shouldn’t forget how far we’ve come, in Australia we should be focusing more about equality generally, and there are many other inequality issues out there affecting all genders and sexualities. We should all be able to cry at work."
Hayley Wood, Network Support Pilot, Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (Queensland Section)
What appealed to you about working with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS)?
“The RFDS and its ethos was always something I was attracted to. Before I decided that becoming a pilot would be my career path, I wanted to be a doctor for the RFDS. I can remember my aunty and uncle, who travel extensively in remote Australia, fundraising and telling stories about the RFDS. And I always wanted to fly for the RFDS, too. Unfortunately, I had a bad experience when I was first learning to fly – someone told me I wouldn’t be able to do the job – and that stuck with me. But, after COVID, I thought, if not now, then when?
I’d give the same advice to anyone starting in aviation. Back yourself. Never give up. Love what you’re doing now, even while you’re reaching for the next step. Always have a Plan B. Don’t ask anyone to do anything you aren’t willing to do yourself and take every opportunity that presents.”
Read more about Hayley’s amazing journey in her career.