Alaska Air Group’s female independent board directors. From left: Phyllis Campbell, Patricia (Patty) Bedient (seated), Helvi Sandvik, Susan Li and Marion Blakey (seated).
‘It starts at the top’
Alaska Airlines Lead Director Patty Bedient is proud to serve on our board with 50 percent women, arguing diversity and inclusion starts at the top of an organization. We couldn’t agree more.
“It means we ‘walk the talk’ on diversity at the board level,” she says.
At Alaska, we’re proud to be the only airline – and the first West Coast Fortune 500 company – to achieve gender parity among independent board directors. Women Inc. Magazine recognized Bedient as well as Phyllis Campbell, Marion Blakey, Helvi Sandvik and Susan Li as five of the Most Influential Corporate Board Directors in 2018.
Director Sandvik joined our board in 2013. With over 30 years’ executive management and board experience, she doesn’t take a room full of female voices for granted.
“I have served on other boards where women were the minority and communication did not seem as open,” she says. “Having gender balance on the board creates a great collaborative, comfortable environment.”
Director Campbell agrees, noting gender, ethnic and other types of diversity have strengthened the quality of debate and input from directors.
“Questions arise from different experiences and the outcomes are usually stronger,” she says.
Beyond the boardroom
Creating an environment where all people feel valued is a goal that extends far beyond our boardroom. From the cockpit to call centers, we aim to reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.
“Diversity and representation help companies like Alaska Airlines better serve people,” adds Li, who joined our board last May.
In 2017, Alaska Air Group as a whole achieved company-wide gender balance.
While we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, we recognize that having a diverse workforce does not necessarily mean it’s inclusive. We are committed to building trust, discussing diversity and inclusion openly, and encouraging compassion so that all our employees feel included.
Our CEO was one of the first 100 CEOs to sign a pledge to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. And this month, we’re hosting our second annual “Women in Leadership Summit,” where managers and directors have the opportunity to network and grow as a leader.
Another way we’re building an inclusive workplace is through our Business Resource Groups (BRGs). These groups are formed by employees coming together, based on shared characteristics or life experiences, to celebrate a common cause. We have BRGs that support our Black/African American, LGBTQ+ and women’s communities both within Alaska Airlines and outside the company.
“Alaska Air Group is a fantastic company,” adds board director Sandvik. “They work hard to ensure there are diverse views around the table and throughout the organization, including the boardroom.”
Editor’s note: This story was originally published Nov. 20, 2018.