Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Qatar Airways CEO Says Women Can't Do His Job Because It's Hard

Qatar Airways CEO Says Women Can't Do His Job Because It's Hard

Al Baker said 44 per cent of the airline's employees were women and denied there was any gender inequality at Qatar Airways.

Chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker said the position was "challenging" and needed to be led by a man.

The Qatari businessman is the incoming chairman of the IATA, and had promised at the beginning of the media conference to not make any controversial statements, because he took the role seriously. "It was just a joke", he said.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday at the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association in Sydney, Australia, Akbar Al Baker marked the occasion of becoming chair of the trade body's board of governors by dismissing the notion that the lack of women in his industry is an issue.

Yesterday, the boss of Heathrow John Holland-Kaye, distanced himself from Al Baker's comments.

In 2017 he apologized after calling USA flight attendants "grandmothers" during a trade row with US airlines, prompting an airline union to accuse him of sexism and age discrimination. Qatar Airways operates more than 200 aircraft and flies to over 150 destinations across six continents, according to the airline's website.

Qatar Airways has caused controversy in the past for its treatment of its predominantly female cabin crew, at one time firing them for being pregnant.

Pressed further as to why being a woman was incompatible with holding the CEO position, Al-Baker said that he was "only referring to one individual" and "not to the staff in general". "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".

'This whole debate should encourage more, ' Walsh said.

Al Baker's apology was shared by Qatar Airlines. Only one woman, Kristin Colville, CEO of Flybe, was among 26 airline chiefs posing for a group photo of the IATA board last week.

Asked whether he would welcome a woman as chief executive, Al Baker attempted to back track, saying: "It will be my pleasure to have a female CEO candidate I could then develop to become CEO after me".

Al Baker pledged to bring more women onto IATA's board, but said there had been few applicants.

The CEO of Qatar Airways, where women make up almost half the company's workforce, apologized for saying that a woman couldn't do his job because it was "very challenging".

"You know, I have to put a little bit of fireworks around to motivate people to ask more questions", he said.

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