Recognizing the women of WestJet

By WestJet | | 5 min read
In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women of Aviation Week, we're featuring some inspiring WestJetters in their own words who are sharing their unique experiences as women in aviation, the lessons they’ve learned along the way and the importance of diversity in the industry.
Recognizing the women of WestJet

Women from all walks of life and from backgrounds have found a place in aviation, bringing unique perspectives, skills, and ideas to the industry, enriching it in countless ways throughout their careers. 

In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women of Aviation Week, we're featuring some inspiring WestJetters in their own words who are sharing their unique experiences as women in aviation, the lessons they’ve learned along the way and the importance of diversity in the industry.  

Samantha Reid

Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME), YYZ

A drive for change and something different is what really inspired me. Although I knew nothing about aviation when I first considered it, it has really helped me learn that I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to.

There isn't a huge amount of female AMEs (yet), so to be one of such a small percentage feels pretty cool – though I am grateful to work alongside others who don't see any difference. I think I can say what empowers me the most is knowing that I am acknowledged for the aviation professional that I am and the skills that I bring. 
Since I've entered the industry, I've noticed there are a lot more events and awareness programs to help women discover the many career paths they can take within aviation. That's an opened door that was never there before. 

As a woman already in the Technical Operations field, the best way to help encourage girls or young women to join our industry is to continue doing my part and spreading the word.

Benaifer Bhathena

Manager, Revenue Accounting 
Aviation has always been an interesting industry. When I moved to Dubai, I was offered a role at Emirates to implement a financial system. It was my first step in the aviation sector, and I took on the challenge. 
With the support of my better half (who has also been in the industry longer than myself), I learnt the basics of the ticketing world, took IATA courses and at each stage the curiosity increased to learn more. It has been an amazing journey for me to learn how each area of the aviation industry is different yet so interconnected in order to make air travel possible for our guests. 

During my career, I have witnessed more and more women venture to take on various frontline challenging roles like pilots, AMEs, ground handling crews, and on the corporate side leading incredibly talented Digital, IT, Finance teams. Why? Because we can. The aviation industry is so diverse and the sky is the limit in terms of the equal opportunities it can offer.

Kristin Long (McMahon)

Captain, 737

I was literally born with aviation in my blood. My parents both worked for an airline, and I was hooked from a young age. I love flying and I always wanted to travel. My career takes me to destinations where I can explore new cities and experience cultures as part of my regular work schedule.

It was truly the female pilots in the 70’s and 80’s who changed the aviation industry for women. I started flight training 26 years ago. My personal and professional experiences have been consistently supportive and equitable. I have always been treated as a pilot and I have been afforded the same opportunities as other pilots.

Still, only seven per cent of airline pilots are women, and less than three per cent of airline Captains are women. We can encourage the next generation of women by promoting our company as an equal employer and developing healthy work-life balance and flexibility. By promoting gender diversity in our marketing channels, all year long. Young girls and women need to see women in aviation careers to know there is a spot within our industry for them too.

Naz Qureshi

Central Baggage Services Sr Specialist, Contact Centre

In my high school yearbook, under ambition, I wrote that I wanted to be a pilot. Life had different things in store for me but the romance for travel has always been deep in my heart. I took my first flight with my mother when I was seven years old. We flew KLM from Montreal to Amsterdam, then to Karachi, Pakistan. I believe I caught the travel bug right there and then. I never feared being in a plane; it's like home to me.

I believe being a woman has empowered me to withstand the turbulence - the highs and lows - that we have experienced at WestJet during my almost twelve years.

 As a woman, and especially as a mother, you find courage and determination to fight for what you love, you become a natural nurturer and are ready to take on whatever may come your way to help it flourish and come up on top. WestJet has been that for me, I started as a proud owner, and I maintain that love and passion for it. Like with my children, every success WestJet has is a source of pride for me.

Women have the innate ability to be compassionate, empathetic and have the emotional intelligence that is essential in any guest-serving role. We can overcome difficult situations, set aside our personal feelings and be present for the job at hand, as challenging as it may be. Women can also multitask and face the challenges that a very live operation, such as an airline, can present. There is no better feeling than a crisis averted or handled, and a job well done.

Charmaine Parnell-Miles

Guest Service Lead, YYZ Airport

Growing up in an inner city in the Caribbean, I didn't know the luxury of traveling overseas in my younger years. However, I got the opportunity to take an airplane ride for a high school trip and that was the catalyst for my love of travel and passion for serving in the world of aviation. 

Shortly after graduating from university, I studied to become an Air Traffic Controller. There were no two days alike which made it quite different from many other careers. Safely moving thousands of people daily through the airspace; knowing aircraft types and capabilities to perform sequencing in 3D; executing the smooth flow of air traffic by separating aircraft from each other, in the air and on the ground... truly exhilarating. 

For me, the aviation industry continues to foster the space to help people get from place to place safely and it opens up opportunities for personal growth and development in all the moments in between.

When I started, there were women as aviation professionals, but it was still largely a male dominated world. Today, women are positioned more broadly in various technical and non-technical roles and excelling. We see more aircraft engineers/mechanics, pilots, cargo handlers, ramp personnel, amongst many others. There seems no longer to be any gender-specific roles within the industry as women are performing similar roles as their male counterparts.

Nicole Perkson

Instructor - Inflight Training, WestJet

As silly as it sounds, PAN AM inspired me to pursue a career in aviation – anytime I step into my uniform I take myself back to a time where travel was a luxury. I treat every guest every day like they are valued and mean something to us.  
I have seen a male dominated industry slowly become an industry where women aren’t afraid to step up and become real leaders in aviation. I can now count on two hands the times I have worked with an all-female crew and that is absolutely amazing! 
We are not afraid to stand up for what we believe in, we advocate for one another and support each other's goals.

Samantha King

Cabin Crew Member, WestJet Encore

I have always loved airplanes and travelling. Working in aviation is a dream because I get to do what I love every day. 

Most people I know in this industry and in general would agree that women and men are equals. Although, I have at times witnessed the shocked look on people’s faces when I told them I was pursuing a career as a pilot. These instances have made me feel empowered to prove those people wrong. Every step of my aviation journey thus far has made me feel empowered, proud, and accomplished. In my opinion, the skills that an individual brings to the aviation industry has everything to do with the individual and nothing to do with their gender.

Over the last five years, I've witnessed women upgrading to captain positions, rising in the ranks of the corporate aviation world, starting aviation companies, beginning their flight training, and so much more. These are very exciting times. I have been so lucky to be surrounded by women who have inspired me!