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Airfreight focuses on attracting young, diverse talent

By Adina Solomon on March 13, 2014

“Employees come first [at Southwest]. Customers come second. Shareholders come third,” Weber said. “And that’s pretty bold.”

She said Southwest has a clearly defined mission statement and values that is familiar to all employees.

The airline will turn down highly-skilled people if they don’t have a good attitude and show that they care about the job and company, Weber said.

“It is a requirement at Southwest Airlines to enjoy your work,” she said.

Every two years, Southwest does employee surveys. That’s how the airline recently learned that employees want to know how business development affects them, Weber said.

She emphasized that hiring people is not solely the job of human resources; it needs to be espoused top-down.

Universities and middle and high schools also have a role in air cargo’s future, said Aman Gupta, program chair for logistics and supply chain management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“There’s a greater need for industry-academia partnership,” Gupta said.

Gupta talked about the flexibility of online classes for people around the world.

“[With] the need of education and the rising cost of education, distance learning is the future,” he said.

He said the air cargo industry is “cool” and financially rewarding. Gupta showed a table of salaries for management positions, though women’s salaries were far behind men’s in the higher positions.

“I get disappointed when I see that gap,” Gupta said later during the panel.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University tends to hire more female instructors for courses, he said. He emphasized that more women should be encouraged to enter the airfreight industry.

“There are no limits for women in any field, any industry,” Gupta said.

Strauss said to simply pay women more because there is often a US$50,000 gap for the same job.

“We’re making it a bigger problem than it is,” Strauss said.

When Bell asked the audience to name a female CEO in the industry, it came up short.

“It’s ridiculous,” Bell said. “I think we have maybe two.”

He said airlines sometimes put women in specific fields, such as human resources and finance.

An audience member who is part of Women in Aviation in Germany said women are traditionally the secondary income in a family, so they take jobs at a lower salary. Meanwhile, men think of themselves as the primary earner, so they negotiate for higher salaries.

Weber said stereotypes exist. When she tells people that she works for Southwest, they ask if she is a flight attendant.

The airline focuses on getting women interested in the industry, starting at the high school level, Weber said.

Paul Tsui, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics, participated in the panel. He said a few years ago, the association set up an education center for women, which has proven successful.