The Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) team sat down with Wampie Kegel of Safran Cabin, 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.
Having held positions at Zodiac Aerospace and now, Safran Cabin, Wampie Kegel has more than 20 years’ experience in the aviation industry.
Here, she addresses the personal challenges facing women today, and the cultural changes needed in the industry to improve diversity.
How long have you worked in the aviation industry?
“For more than 20 years. I started my career in aviation at Driessen, a Dutch manufacturer of galleys and trolleys, where I first took responsibility for internal communication and later on also for exhibitions and external communication.
Over the years my role has not changed significantly, but it does make quite a difference if you work for a family business of only 2,000 employees compared to a listed company with 95,000 employees. It’s fair to say I grew up with the job. As the companies I worked for got bigger, so I took the opportunities that were open to me.”
Have you encountered any gender discrimination in your career?
“I’ve not experienced problems because of being a woman myself. On the contrary. I have been given many opportunities. However, I have seen many examples in our industry – and across other sectors – where women have difficulties in getting promoted in sectors that are traditionally outnumbered by men, and that women more often than not, run through the glass ceiling.
That has not changed much over the years, even though the number of women in our industry has increased in all job functions.”
In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to women succeeding in the workplace?
“What I have seen is that talented women are overlooked, and that female colleagues often lack the confidence to apply for higher-level positions compared to male colleagues. When there are job openings, I still hear that we are looking for the right ‘guy’ to fill the job.
“Having female role models is of great importance to attract and keep the new and next generation of women in our industry.”
This is a culture that needs time to change. It also requires education to make people more aware. When you do not experience the issue personally, you may mistakenly think that this type of discrimination does not occur, as it shouldn’t. This lack of awareness makes it harder to change the culture.”
What advice would you give to female professionals interested in a career in aviation?
“To support each other in realising ambitions. I advise anyone interested in a career in aviation to take the opportunities as they arise and just go for it, even if you are not sure you are the best candidate for the job. Ask for coaching and look for a good mentor. Take part in networking and after-work events.
Men, in general, are much better in investing time in building their network, whereas many women, including me, struggle with the work and private life balance. After work, we run back home to take care of our families, and often decline network opportunities even though we know these would benefit our career.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Just go for it, and enjoy it.”
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the aviation industry?
“Providing all the people in the world the opportunity to fly and connect with each other worldwide. At the same time, reducing the carbon footprint and making the aviation industry more sustainable.”
Who has been your biggest advocate/mentor in the workplace and why?
“Paul Verheul, CEO of Driessen and Zodiac Galley Equipment, encouraged me to be more ambitious and take up new challenges. Today at Safran I have a few great female role models in executive positions that inspire me and from who I can learn. For instance, Pascale Dubois and Helene Moreau Leroy, who are also two of the initiators of the women@safran network, promoting mutual support among the women in the group.
“Take the opportunities as they arise and just go for it.”
Having female role models is of great importance to attract and keep the new and next generation of women in our industry, and even more important: we as women should be encouraging and supporting other women in realising their ambitions. That is one of my personal objectives on the job.”
About Wampie Kegel
With more than 22 years at Zodiac Aerospace, Wampie Kegel joined Safran Cabin, the world’s leading supplier of cabin interiors for regional, narrow and wide-body, business and military aircraft in 2018. As Communication Director, she is responsible for managing the organisation’s internal and external communications.