The CEO of Qatar Airways has set off a scorching round of criticism after claiming a woman would not be able to do his job because it's "very challenging."
Akbar Al Baker made the sexist remark while addressing a question at a press conference in Sydney for the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
“Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position,” he stated, prompting disapproving groans from the audience.
After drawing widespread criticism, Al Baker released a clarification; a necessary step since he was just tapped as the 77th chair of the IATA Board of Governors, a position he will assume for a year.
However, it is important to note that the apology still maintained he was referring to "one individual," which essentially means he didn't exactly backtrack from his original statement.
H.E Mr. Akbar Al Baker: I would like to offer my heartfelt apologies for any offence caused by my comment yesterday, which runs counter to my track record of expanding the role of women in leadership throughout the Qatar Airways Group and has been sensationalised by the media. pic.twitter.com/M07Wczk08B— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) June 5, 2018
"I was only referring to one individual, I was not referring to the staff in general,” he clarified, adding Qatar Airways has 33 per cent staff comprising of women. "It will be my pleasure to have a female CEO candidate I could develop to become CEO after me," he added.
Granted, women CEOs are a rarity and when it comes to the airline industry, they are even scarcer, according to a recent Bloomberg analysis. Case in point: Among the 26 airline executives posing for a photo at an IATA event, during which Al Baker was tapped for his new role, there was only one woman, Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO of Flybe Group Plc, a regional carrier in the U.K.
However, the reason behind the scarcity is not because the role of a CEO is "very challenging," as Al Baker put it. It's because of the well-documented, deeply-rooted sexist hierarchy that plagues all kinds of workplaces across the world.
Yet, despite the traditional barriers, there are many women CEOs running far bigger companies than Qatar Airways.
The chief of (currently) the world's top airlines should know better.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters