75th Anniversary: Come a long way — gender in air cargo

Like almost every business in America for most of the 20th century, the airfreight business was an old boys’ club. The management was solidly male, with women filling in the stereotypical gender roles of the 1940s through the 1960s – mostly as pretty window dressing for advertisements.

Air Transportation sadly reflected these outdated attitudes. If women were shown at all, they were either beauty queens hawking cargo products (above, left), housewives in a grocery store or secretaries working in the background. In one 1953 cartoon ad for the old Flying Tiger Line, today’s reader might be taken aback by the “Mad Men”-style three-martini lunches, complete with scantily clad cocktail waitresses.

By the 1960s, more sophisticated graphics were used, but the representation of women had hardly progressed, as can be seen in a 1965 Pan Am ad (above, right) depicting a woman living a James-Bond-like life as a secret agent, being wooed by “cargo cats” who “really swing together.”

Gradually things began to change in the liberated 1970s, with more women being taken seriously as professionals, leading to greater representation at executive levels. To its credit, the February 1980 issue of Air Cargo (above, center) dedicated its cover to “Women in Air Cargo,” profiling such women in the industry as Pat Breen, president of Associated Couriers, Inc.; Ginny Kramer, manager of exports operations for Heyer, Inc.; and Deanna Kelly, director of cargo for Metro Airlines.

Also, of the 13 editors that have helmed this publication, three were women – Marie Powers, Linda Parham and Nancy Gores. It may be baby steps, but it’s progress.

Back to Main 75th Anniversary feature | Air Cargo World time line

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