Leading the airline industry with 50% women on our board

Alaska Air Group’s female independent board directors. From left: Phyllis Campbell, Patricia Bedient (seated), Helvi Sandvik, Susan Li and Marion Blakey (seated).

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

On May 13, we celebrated Flight #361, Alaska’s first flight with two female African American pilots.

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.

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15 comments on "Leading the airline industry with 50% women on our board"

  1. Pingback: Alaska Airlines celebrates its own Captain Marvels – WOAVI

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  3. This commitment to diversity and inclusiveness makes me so proud to have switched to Alaska for all of my flights. Thank you for leading the way. It will only make Alaska stronger. This post has made my flight!

    • Why the virtue signaling? As long as the people are qualifued,who cares what color skin they were born with ? The fact that Alaskan Air thinks its progressive to hire someone based on the color of their skin rather than their abilities to do the job us frightening when you consider many lives are at stake.

      • I’ve read nothing that indicates Alaska Airlines hires based on skin color rather than ability.
        What I have read indicates a commitment to inclusion while hiring only the best of the best.

  4. Would be helpful for you to list the titles/firms of the board members. (I know Phyllis, but the others…)

  5. As a UC Berkeley grad (many years ago…..I’ll be 80 in February!) I am most appreciative for the info of 50% of your BofD! Maybe even a larger % is warrented? That wouldn’t have happened in 1960 when I was a grad student……I’ll be with you as my “flying company” forever

  6. I’m a frequent flyer to Hawaii. SJC to LIH and KOA. (I have three homes in HI) However, will there ever be direct flights SJC to ITO (Hilo)? I have two homes in Pahoa and landing at KOA necessitates renting a car. Landing in ITO does not.

  7. Proud to be a Mileage Plan member of a great company that is making history. It is only right that everyone has an equal opportunity to go as far as your skills & efforts take you.

  8. If diversity and inclusion is your benchmark for a quality run organization, I think that you should reconsider your goals and objectives.

  9. Had a great experience with Barbara Heinana at the reservation desk this week. Courteous, helpful and downright wonderful.