Qantas has strongly denounced sexist posts on a forum apparently frequented by dozens of its pilots.
The Herald Sun uncovered comments on the forum, which the paper believes is moderated by a Qantas captain, containing crude misogynistic jokes, disparagement of incoming CEO Vanessa Hudson, and complaints that women have an “advantage” over male pilots.
One commenter lashed out at female pilots “spawning offspring and then wanting flexible work arrangements”, while another said women can “go off, run their breeding program or get a cushy job in the office at twice the pay of the other full time office staff”.
One post labelled scholarships for 50 female student pilots as “overt discrimination”, with another saying the national carrier’s targets for gender representation will result in women with lower skill levels being chosen over supposedly more qualified male pilots.
In a statement, Qantas said it does not support the forum in any way and that two of the pilots are no longer with the airline, while a third is under investigation and not currently flying.
“These comments are completely unacceptable. They’re offensive, don’t reflect our values and have no place here or in any other workplace,” said Qantas’s chief pilot, Dick Tobiano.
“We have many talented female pilots at Qantas and we want to encourage a lot more of them. Aviation hasn’t been good at that historically, and clearly some outdated thinking still exists in some pockets. Criticism of these programs doesn’t change our view.”
The Herald Sun investigation comes almost exactly a year after the release of a landmark report that concluded sexist harassment and discrimination were major barriers to women entering the aviation industry; it is believed that, in Australia, women hold only six per cent of plane, helicopter, and balloon licences.
Qantas itself has around seven per cent female pilots, and 15 per cent at regional subsidiary QantasLink, compared with a global figure of around five per cent. Around one-fifth of students at the airline’s pilot academy are female.
The Barriers to the Pipeline report also said the “vast majority” of its more than 180 respondents indicated that the perception of male domination was a significant barrier to entry. It noted references to a “boys’ club mentality” and the “lack of support from male peers”.
“My aviation workplace is dominated by men with outdated and problematic opinions,” wrote one respondent. “If this were to change, I would think that we would have a more diverse industry as those who start their path would stick around longer as they would feel safe at work and their skills valued.”
Another wrote, “Over a decade of experience within the industry, the culture still needs to change. Females are often subjected to both biased and unbiased adversities and harassment. There is a significant gender bias in Australia when compared to Europe.”
The report concluded, “Though progress has been made regarding women’s perception of the aerospace sector, the overall picture is of an industry still hostile to women.”