With passenger and freight traffic projected to double between 2016 and 2034, Ms. Liu said, there would be “a significant number of opportunities for the many young girls and women globally seeking rewarding and lifelong professions in aviation.”
For now, most of the women who lead airlines are in charge of smaller local carriers. The highest profile female chief executive in the industry in recent years has been Carolyn McCall, who ran the low-cost carrier easyJet before leaving to lead the British broadcaster ITV this year.
Mylène Scholnick, an aviation consultant and former president of the International Aviation Women’s Association, argued that airlines needed to make more of an effort to increase the proportion of women in their companies.
“I think it’s all going to come from the leadership commitment to ingrain that change throughout the organization,” she said, speaking at an event focused on gender equality in the sector at the meeting in Sydney.
Qantas, for example, has committed to hiring more women to its training programs to meet demand. “If we’re leaving out almost 50 percent of the population in our search for the next generation of 640,000 pilots, we’re clearly not tapping into all of the talent that’s available,” Alan Joyce, the airline’s chief executive, said in a statement last year.
Although Mr. Al Baker’s comments elicited disapproving noises during the news conference, he’s far from the only senior businessman to make such remarks.
John Allan, the chairman of the British supermarket chain Tesco, told a retail conference last year that white men were in danger of becoming an “endangered species” in senior business roles. In 2016, Kevin Roberts, then chairman of the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency, was eventually dismissed after saying that the debate about gender diversity in that sector was “all over” and suggesting that women were happier in nonleadership roles.