Meet the women soaring in aviation careers across SkyTeam


  • RISE Program is furthering female talent, supporting STEM careers
  • First airline alliance to unanimously sign up to IATA’s 25by2025 initiative

AMSTERDAM, 6 MARCH 2024 – SkyTeam is helping women’s careers take off in aviation through its annual RISE female leadership program and alliance-wide participation in IATA’s 25by2025 initiative. Since becoming the first global airline alliance to unanimously sign up to the global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion scheme in September 2021, SkyTeam and its members have been working hard to address the gender gap in aviation by increasing the number of women in senior positions and under-represented areas by 25%, or up to a minimum of 25% by 2025.

"One of the significant barriers to career advancement for women in aviation, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) roles, is the lack of structural support, as well as limited access to development and promotion opportunities. Despite the abundance of outstanding female talent in the aviation industry, this remains a persistent issue. Underrepresentation is very common, further perpetuating the situation. It is critical for our industry to champion the professional growth of women and embed diversity within our lived experience, ensuring a nurturing and motivational setting for success. Initiatives like RISE and IATA 25by2025 demonstrate SkyTeam's commitment to fostering such an environment." 


Evgenia Starkova

Head of Marketing and Sustainability, SkyTeam

SkyTeam women breaking boundaries
While IATA’s 25by2025 initiative is turning the tide – from 2021 to 2022, signatories counted over 1,000 new female pilots, up 25% - women remain underrepresented in many areas including the boardroom, the flight deck, below wing and maintenance. Here are some of the women working at SkyTeam’s member airlines who are charting a path for other women and young girls to follow in aviation.

Liliana Gearap, Boeing 737 First Officer at TAROM
‘As a teenager, I dreamt of becoming an ambassador. Then I started training as a flight attendant and met somebody with dreams to be a pilot who started me dreaming too.

My job requires a lot of passion, a bit of adrenaline and continual self-improvement of both my flying and communication skills. It’s a complex job because I’m not simply flying the plane. I’m also managing communications with the crew, the ground teams, air traffic control and our passengers while being aware of changing factors such as weather and other aircraft. I like to think that at the end of each flight I’ve improved a little and that is very rewarding.

The airplane doesn't know if the pilot is a woman or a man, but the schedule can be challenging to women who are more likely to be the family caregivers. The job requires being away from your children overnight, during the holidays, for birthdays and other important events, but luckily things are changing, and the number of women pilots is rising. As the world progresses, so is our industry.’


Alice Goodwin, Engineer – Design and Development at Virgin Atlantic
‘It wasn’t until I met a pilot at a school careers fair that I thought a career in aviation was possible. Their passion and enthusiasm for the industry made me want to be part of the community. I love that I get to work and collaborate with so many different teams, from maintenance engineers who work on the aircraft to technical pilots and flight operations teams – no two days are the same!

There’s a saying: “you can’t be what you can’t see”, but I prefer to say: “you can’t be something you are not aware of”. I love sharing what I do as an engineer and highlighting this amazing industry to the next generation through Virgin Atlantic’s STEM programme (Passport to Change), and I was recently selected by the UK’s Department for Transport as an Aviation Ambassador.

In many cases women and people who are underrepresented in the sector are still able to progress despite being in the minority. We need to myth-bust common misconceptions about engineering and aviation and highlight that there is a place for everybody no matter their background.’


Nesrin Sengül, Ground Lead - Operations Control Center at KLM
‘I came from Turkey to the Netherlands at the age of 7. Flying back to visit family, the excitement of the airport made me want to join the world of aviation and in particular work at Schiphol. I started as a check-in agent at KLM and took every opportunity to get to the next level.

As Ground Lead, I am the first point of contact for outstations around the world when it comes to fixing operational disruptions. My experience is that a good mix of people with different backgrounds improves results and while the percentage of women in my field is increasing, I think we are not always aware of how much we are capable of.

Cultural and gender diversity in management positions creates more diversity throughout the whole company. Women might not apply for positions in underrepresented areas because they don’t think they have a chance, but we need to believe in ourselves more and take every opportunity to grow. If you want something, go get it!’


Sohee Kang, Engineer - Aerospace Business Division at Korean Air
‘Having majored in Industrial Engineering, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to apply my academic knowledge to real-world context and how to add value to a broader community. I chose aviation because it’s crucial to connecting people and goods across the globe.

I realized that the industry had great potential for future growth. Today, I work in aircraft maintenance and my career path has allowed me to explore opportunities and become a pioneer in this dynamic and ever-evolving field.

Aviation is often viewed as traditionally conservative and male-dominated, however it’s important to recognize that women’s unique and adaptable thinking style brings valuable contributions to the field. We need more female role models who can inspire and encourage young women to pursue their dreams in the aerospace industry. 

Things are different to when I began my career; there is a growing number of women who are excelling as leaders in their respective roles. I see immense potential for personal growth in this industry.’


RISE: Reach, Inspire, Soar and Empower
SkyTeam’s RISE Leadership Program is designed to take female leadership to new heights across SkyTeam and its members, helping them reach their IATA 25by2025 goals. Now in its second year, the program is designed to help high-potential female leaders working in a high-paced international environment continuously advance their communication, management and leadership skills. 

Last year’s RISE participants completed a capstone project that explored how to make STEM careers in aviation more attractive to women.

Their research concluded that women are underrepresented due to challenges such as a lack of confidence and encouragement when it comes to pursuing promotions or roles in STEM fields – and a shortage of female role models. 

This year’s 24 RISE participants will complete a capstone project themed “Leadership by Example”. This will involve organizing intra-airline networking events to connect women and help destigmatize the industry and its career prospects through presentations from successful women across aviation. 

SkyTeam plans to extend the RISE program over the coming years, opening it up to ‘friends and family’ airlines of SkyTeam members. The alliance plans to develop a new program for junior to mid-level female employees to support their career development and create an industry-wide networking platform for women in aviation.

About SkyTeam
SkyTeam is dedicated to powering a seamless, more sustainable customer journey, with all members working together to connect millions of passengers across an extensive global network of 1,000+ destinations. The members are Aeroflot (suspended), Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, China Airlines, China Eastern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Garuda Indonesia, ITA Airways, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and XiamenAir.