International Women’s Day


In 2013 just 16 percent of our 80 person strong S (SLT) comprised of women. Today that number sits at 36 percent and we’re closing in fast on the 40 percent target we set ourselves to achieve by 2020. This target was set with our overall company gender split in mind – our female employees make up 43 percent of our workforce. These numbers are a good reinforcement that often the first step in addressing an issue is to set a baseline and targets – “what gets measured, gets done”.

Initially we looked at why female representation enior Leadership Teamon the SLT was low and realised that we had a number of great women managers yet they were deemed to be 5+ years away from being ready for senior leadership roles. We decided then to focus on making sure our performance and talent assessment processes were truly accelerating the development of our female employees – this allowed us to create a real platform for change.

Some of the initiatives we implemented, included –

– Launching a women’s network, partnering with Professionelle and Global Women.
– Developing a career and life-changing Women in Leadership programme.
– Providing many of our women with professional coaches and mentoring opportunities, including sessions with our Executive and SLT Leaders.
– Taking every opportunity to expose groups of our women to world class female leaders. I have personally hosted groups of women to hear the likes of Arianna Huffington, Oprah Winfrey and Karen Walker speak. Six of our women have also attended (or are about to attend) the world prestigious International Women’s Federation programme – run over two residential sessions at Insead and Harvard.
– Facilitating greater interaction between our female Board members and female employees. A great example of this is the regular panel discussions we hold. In the past year alone we had more than 1,000 women attend a career panel session we ran with SLT women. These panels continue to be oversubscribed whenever we run them.
– Sending female talent to development opportunities offered to us from our partner organisations to address perceived financial or commercial development areas.
– Co-designing and running multiple financial and commercial programmes where women have worked on real issues facing Air New Zealand in their respective portfolios with mentoring support from the University of Auckland and senior leaders in our Finance function.

And we’re seeing some real traction. Of the female appointments to the SLT in the past three years, more than twice as many have been internal promotions versus external hires. And of these internal promotions, 65 percent have graduated from our internal, very intensive, accelerated development leadership programme where we’ve had inspirational business women like Theresa Gattung, among others, talk about how they made it in business. All of these appointments and promotions have been made solely on the basis of merit. Not once have I heard anyone express a view that we should give someone a promotion because of their gender.

Looking forward, our pipeline for female talent is also looking incredibly healthy with women making up close to 60 percent of the wider talent population.

While we continue to focus heavily on development, our strategy has shifted up a gear in how we move our talent around different roles to ensure they are getting the best experiential development they can. As an Executive we have been focused on ensuring those individuals moving roles have enough support but what has been fantastic to observe is the support male and female peers alike are giving each other. Our people involved talk about how ‘we won’t let each other fail’ and the transitions have been occurring remarkably smoothly.

We’re also looking at how we can attract more women into the organisation at the start of their careers. A number of our female pilots have started a mentoring programme with female pilot trainees at the Walsh Memorial Scout Flying School. Another area where we are attracting diverse, female talent into Air New Zealand is via our support of the Global Women Champions for Change initiative. This programme aims to increase the number of Māori and Pasifika female employees being employed by New Zealand corporates. Under the programme, we recently had three female university interns placed with us over the summer.

Having strong Board and Executive backing is vital to making headway. Our Board has been very clear on its commitment in this space. Our Chief Executive Officer has also been a big sponsor of this work – freeing up budget and resources and being a visible agitator for change in his leadership messages as well as his personal sponsorship and attendance at Women in Leadership events. Outside of Air New Zealand, he is also an active supporter of the Male Champions for Change initiative by Global Women where male CEOs of major New Zealand organisations are invited to talk openly about how they as male leaders are role modelling equity and parity in their organisations for women and other groups such as Māori and Pasifika.

I have been a part of Air New Zealand’s Executive team for 12 months and the sense of collective responsibility that comes with my position is something I really enjoy. My male peers in the Executive team have challenged me when they don’t think I am pushing hard enough to champion women for roles which means if I’m not in the room I can be confident they will advocate on women’s behalf which is a hugely satisfying position to be in.

We have some amazing women in our organisation and I’m excited about what’s to come. I know as soon as we hit 40 percent female membership of the SLT I’ll be looking ahead to 50 percent representation!

This year’s International Women’s Day strapline #BeBoldForChange struck a chord with me. I am incredibly passionate about women being represented more in business and I think there’s a massive opportunity for women to be more bold, to get out of their comfort zone, to be less constrained by worry, to put their hand up, to expect more, to ask for more, and ultimately experience more.

Whether it’s been working in the UK or here in New Zealand, I’ve benefitted throughout my career from having strong female and male role models who have invested their time in me. It’s a hugely satisfying part of my job to pay that forward. Today I’m fortunate to work alongside 4,900 incredible women at Air New Zealand. You can see some of them in the video below that celebrates the women that make our airline fly.

Jodie King
Chief People Officer
Air New Zealand

Jodie King joined Air New Zealand in 2012 as an HR General Manager and member of the HR Leadership Team after 16 years of living and working in the UK. Jodie was appointed Chief People Officer in February 2016. Prior to this she had managed Air New Zealand’s Organisational Effectiveness and Talent, HR Corporate and HR Airports and Sales & Commercial teams.

To here more of her insights, join her at the HR Leaders Forum where she will be presenting a keynote address.

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