AvWomen: making a mark – part five of our web series celebrating International Women’s Day

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To mark International Women’s Day (8 March), Aviation Business News has created a week-long web series in which we meet some of the women making their mark on an industry typically seen as dominated by men. In this final edition, we hear from recent MBE recipient Kim Lewington, programme manager for charity Fly2Help, and CargoAi chief customer officer, Magali Beauregard.

Whether someone has been in the industry 39 years, such as Kim Lewington, or the 13 years Magali Beauregard has experienced, aviation always offers something new.

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Lewington (pictured below), a recipient of an MBE in the Queen’s 2021 New Year’s Honours List, had “no idea” what she wanted to do when she left school at 16. She liked the sound of the Air Force, and after completing a test they recommended air traffic control. The only problem was that she was too young at the time. Luckily for her, there was a government-funded ‘youth opportunity scheme’ at Gloucestershire Airport’s air traffic control centre, where she then stayed and became the first female to train as an air traffic controller at the airport.

AvWomen Kim Lewington

After establishing herself in air traffic control, deciding to have children affected her career. She moved into more administrative roles before becoming the airport’s business development manager and then landside operations manager.

One of the reasons she began working at Fly2Help was because she realised she liked the idea of encouraging young people into the industry. She now helps develop their programmes doing just that – encouraging young people into aviation. Although based at the airport for her entire working life, Lewington hasn’t found a lack of new learning experiences, something many can relate to.

Part of Beauregard’s love for the industry is that it has served her desire to keep learning, she says. She found her way in the industry “early on” through a summer holiday stewardess job and internships in the product division of Air France.

“I remember being absolutely fascinated back then in joining the aviation industry, most important was that sense of belonging to a departing crew and the unique blend of solidarity and customer excellence. It was also a lot of fun later on to get the chance to shape the Air France onboard projects.”

After her time in Air France, Beauregard joined Booking.com in 2013, before returning to the aviation industry in 2015 with Lufthansa Cargo.

“I was new to air freight at the time and I immediately realised how fascinating this part of aviation is, and how much there is to learn from global and regional trade flows to operations and all levels of granularities in between,” she explains.

AvWomen Magali Beauregard

Now, as the chief customer officer for Cargo Ai, Beauregard (pictured above) says the company is currently in the “plumbing phase”. She adds: “We’re striving to connect with all relevant parties in the industry and form meaningful partnerships.” Her role also includes designing the customer-based product and customer journey, shaping the young organisation around customer success and rallying them around a common vision for the air freight industry.

Supporting growth

 Lewington admits that being the first female to train at Gloucestershire Airport as an air traffic controller was “tough”, but also helped shape where she’s ended up today.

“It was the mid-80s, early-90s, and there were some very old school people,” she says. “I was the new kid who had this ‘can-do’ attitude. Some people were ready to retire and wondered who this young, enthusiastic person coming in was. It was pretty tough at the time but I look back now and think that it made me what I am and helped with my role now in helping people get into the industry.”

For Beauregard, being a part of a number of formal and less formal communities and coaching groups has helped her as a woman within the industry. “What matters most, beyond the level of formality in these groups, is the true desire to support the growth and development of one another,” she observes. “And the spirit is absolutely there in aviation.”

This spirit is what Lewington tries to show through her work. The Fly2Help charity, in a pre-pandemic world, offered practical visits to young groups around the airport showcasing what the industry has to offer, in addition to providing things like speakers that the children can learn from. During the pandemic, these tours and speakers have had to move online, but that doesn’t mean interest has diminished.

Girls nowadays have more confidence, according to Lewington. The presentation skills and other life skills learnt in school are assets to the workplace and something she didn’t have until she’d already started their career. “If you don’t have confidence, it’s easy to be eaten alive,” she admits, but seeing other women make their way in the industry helps.

Lewington encourages women within aviation to reach out and become role models for girls looking to make their own mark. “It’s always going to be hard in the workplace I think, whether there’s females or males,” she says. “There can always be points of conflict, but that’s part of life. It’s about making your own mark. If you want to work your way to the top, it’s going to be tough and you’re going to get knocked back, but just work hard. Show them that you can do it.”

Embrace change

Beauregard admits that she is “very grateful” she has “never really had to ponder over the topic of gender diversity or equality in great detail”. “Gender diversity was very much a given in all my previous companies, as well as at CargoAi, where 50 per cent of our management team is female.”

Cargo Ai software team
Cargo Ai software team

She also considers Singapore, where she is based, an “amazing place” for women to make a career, with a dynamic job market and women considered, selected and promoted in view of their achievements and what skills they bring to the table “in a very fair and pragmatic way”.

Lewington notes that one obvious difference now is that there are more women, but she has concerns about the idea of filling quotas. “That’s my biggest concern because we’re finally getting women into the industry, but if we’re not careful then they can have a tough time by thinking they got their job because they’re female. I don’t want women not being respected, because they’re as good in the job as anyone else.”

For women to make their own way in the industry, Beauregard believes that 2020 has “undoubtedly” redefined the way we communicate and work together in addition to the way we relate to broader communities and ecosystems. She says CargoAi is aiming to create “a resilient and meaningful organisation, taking our lessons from the global pandemic and [being] able to navigate the uncertainty ahead. Certainly women can bring their own voice and ideas to this discussion.”

Out of this piece, and this week’s web series, Beauregard says if every woman learns just one thing she wants it to be this – even if it makes her sound “like a hippie”. “Ladies, we are cyclical beings evolving in a non-cyclical world. It is critical for our success and wellbeing to embrace this fact instead of fighting it, and ‘truly embrace your cyclical power’.”

Fly2Help office

Click here to read Monday’s interview with CEO of SES, Julie Dickerson. 

Click here to read Tuesday’s piece with CEO of AJW Technique, Sajedah Rustom

Click here to read Wednesday’s piece where we talked to three of ATR’s inspirational women

Click here to read our penultimate Thursday piece when we talked to Gloucestershire Airpost’s managing director Karen Taylor 

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