Since diversity is woven into the fabric of the generation, it is a priority in choosing a workplace. A recent study said 47% of millennials consider the diversity and inclusion of a workplace important during a job search.
The issue of gender diversity and equality is one of the hottest topics in the workplace. In recent years women are speaking up about the pay gap between men, and millennial women benefit the most from this closing gap.
Diversity for women in the workplace extends beyond the salary and into the C-suite. A 2015 report from Pew Research revealed only 5.4% of Fortune 1000 CEO roles were filled by women. While there are strides being made in this area, opportunities exist for millennial women to lead change
Ghada Al Rousi is a millennial woman leading the way in a male-dominated industry. As a commercial airline pilot, she’s in the 3% - 5% of female pilots globally. She currently flies for Air Arabia, the top low-cost airline in the Middle East. Founded in 2003, Air Arabia now flies to 115 destinations globally.
Wes Gay: When did you know you wanted to become a pilot?
Ghada Al Rousi: When I was younger I didn’t initially think about becoming a pilot (I studied Tourism Management in the UAE). The first time I knew I wanted to become a pilot was when I first when into a cockpit, and I just felt ‘I can do this’. As soon as I had this feeling, I decided I wanted to do a pilot training course. I checked all the various options and decided to apply to Alpha Aviation Academy in Sharjah, for the Air Arabia Multi-Crew Pilots License (MPL) program.
Gay: What's it like being a young pilot?
Al Rousi: It is a real honor. It has enabled me to see many countries around the world. When you enter the cockpit you become part of the aircraft and the environment, and you aren’t thinking about anything else in the world. Your mind is purely focussed on the job. It is also a career where you are always learning and developing.
Of course, the job can be stressful, but every profession can be stressful. Sometimes some passengers can be unpleasant, but that is rare. Occasionally there are delays or changes to our schedule, and the weather in certain areas can also be challenging. In those instances, you rely on your training, colleagues and focus to overcome these challenges.
The irregular working hours can be difficult, because sometimes when I am resting my colleagues are working, or vice-versa. But as a professional you learn to adapt.
Gay: What's it like being a female pilot?
Al Rousi: The first thing to say is that we definitely need more female pilots because only 3% of commercial pilots worldwide are women. However, more and more women are signing up to pilot training courses, and this is encouraging.
There are a number of reasons why women have traditionally found it difficult to become pilots. These include: being away from home for extended periods of time, the role of certain traditions and cultures, and the fact that in the past many commercial pilots were sourced from the military. If military service was only possible for men, it made it hard for women to become pilots.
I have never had a different an experience, whether with my training or flying with Air Arabia, to a male pilot or cadet.
When I graduated as a pilot, almost everyone was supportive and proud of me, asking me about my experiences. A very small minority questioned it, saying they thought it was a man’s job, but of course these people weren’t going to stop me.
The reality is that being a good pilot doesn't depend on being a woman or man. It depends on your professionalism and commitment – gender is irrelevant.
Gay: If you could speak to a room of 1000 millennials, what would you say about achieving goals in your career?
Al Rousi: My advice would be not to listen to other people, only to yourself. If you want to do something, or achieve something, don’t ever stop. It is your life. If you remain focused, committed and hard-working, you can achieve your goals.
Convention told me piloting wasn’t a woman’s job. But I knuckled down, did my job, and, with the support of my colleagues, country and family, overcame these misconceptions. If I can do it, you can do it too. After all, if you dream for something you have to do it, or at least try to do it.
Gay: If you could speak to a room of 1000 people leading millennials, what would you say they need to do to lead & empower the generation well?
Al Rousi: I would encourage these leaders to ensure that they give young people the confidence to do whatever they want to do, regardless of how ‘conventional’ that might be. For example, many young girls and women lack the confidence to study STEM subjects because they are traditionally male-dominated. I would ask these leaders to bring about a culture change and break down any remaining stereotypes so that every academic subject and career path is open to all.
I would also ask them not just to lead from the top, but also to encourage peer-to-peer leadership too. Leadership from those on the same level or at the same stage as you can be just as effective as from those above you.
By: Wes Gay