The Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) team sat down with Alina Nassar, a member and past president of the board of directors of the International Aviation Women’s Association, as part of our Women in the Aviation series.
This series of interviews aims to shine a spotlight on notable women in the industry and the diverse career opportunities in the sector.
As a lawyer specialising in aviation, Alina’s in the perfect position to take a balanced view of how it’s responding to the challenge of creating greater gender diversity across all aspects of the industry.
Alina, how long have you worked in the aviation industry?
“I have worked in the aviation industry for 20 years as a practising attorney, and another four years or so before that as a paralegal working with attorneys in that practice area.”
How did you get into the industry?
“The law firm I am with has a historical practice in transportation. When I joined as a law student, I was working with the senior and founding partner and focused on aviation law. I immediately fell in love with the subject and the industry!”
What is it about working in the aviation industry that appeals to you?
“It’s a dynamic and global practice, capable of influencing development and fostering progress for individuals and societies. At the same time, it’s so interconnected that it’s also highly sensitive to what happens in other industries. In aviation, no day is the same and there’s no routine or boredom, at all.
“Women identified the progression of other women in their organisations as the single most important enabler of their own advancement.”
Alina Nassar, IAWA 2019 Study
Technological innovation is happening daily in the industry, which also challenges the regulatory framework; as an attorney in the field, you’re also challenged to innovate, create and provide solutions to your clients while the legislation catches up.”
As a woman, how do you find working in such a male-dominated industry?
“I have been fortunate to have a very supportive boss, who always encouraged my learning and professional development, including my participation in the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA). This provided a platform for networking, connections and further progress and is encouraged and supported by both women and men.”
Have you encountered any gender discrimination in your career?
“I cannot say that I have. However, as a woman, sometimes I’ve had to work harder to gain the credibility and respect I deserve.”
As a female senior leader, why do you think it’s important for companies to address the gender gap?
“Hundreds of studies from private corporations, recruiters, business strategists and international organisations – such as the OECD and UN to name only two – have proved the business case for gender parity. Bringing more women into the formal economy not only benefits individuals and society, but diverse teams also boost a corporation’s performance.
“I do not think the aviation industry requires a separate set of skills from any other industry.”
Diverse teams, not only in terms of gender but also with regards to background, culture, nationality, etc. favour innovation and different perspectives in decision-making processes. Corporations with a firm commitment to inclusion generate greater opportunities for employees and have higher retention, to name only some of the benefits.”
What do you believe has been the key to your success?
“I’d say a strong set of values, commitment, perseverance and undoubtedly the many people who have selflessly helped me, supported me and provided guidance throughout my career.”
What characteristics do you believe women need to survive in the aviation industry?
“I do not think the aviation industry requires a separate set of skills from any other industry. You must establish a clear set of goals, be flexible to adapt to different events and outcomes and surround yourself with an extensive network. Finding a mentor is key in the process.”
In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to women succeeding in the workplace?
“In December 2019, IAWA launched the results of a global study conducted with six other relevant organisations in the industry (Korn Ferry, A4A, ACI, AIA, CANSO and IATA) called “Soaring Through the Glass Ceiling”. It aimed to determine the root causes that may be preventing women’s advancement into leadership positions in the airline and aerospace industry.
“Technological innovation is happening daily in the industry.”
In our study, women identified the progression of other women in their organisations as the single most important enabler of their own advancement. Corporations including women in their leadership teams send a clear message to other women within those organisations about the possibilities to succeed.
Conversely, when women don’t see female leaders, there’s a sense of a lack of opportunity that discourages progression.”
About Alina Nassar
Alina Nassar has been a member of the Board of Directors of the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA) since 2010 and is its most immediate Past President (2018-1019). She is also Chair of her law firm’s regional aviation practice and Co-Chair of the competition practice advising international airlines and corporations on legal matters in Central America, among them aviation, corporate, competition.
She has also directed administrative procedures representing several companies before the Competition Agency and the Commission for the Protection of Consumers in Costa Rica and advised on aircraft financing transactions and application of the Cape Town Convention on International Interests on Mobile Equipment and its Protocol on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment. Alina also actively participates as a speaker and panellist at international conferences on air transport.