The Women Moving and Shaking Air Cargo

IAG Cargo is no stranger to passionate, skilled and talented women who push our industry onwards and upwards. Meet our inspiring go-getters across the globe- from our Chief Financial Officer in the UK, to our Head of Planning and Control in Spain, and our Specialist Sales Manager in India. 

Emma Adam, Chief Financial Officer, London

What does a day in the life of a CFO look like?

When it comes to working in logistics in the airline industry, I really enjoy that there is no normal. The lively and dynamic environment that we operate in constantly challenges you, making you recheck both your immediate priorities and longer-term goals. Every day is different, one moment I can be working on a huge infrastructure project like our new Premia facility, the next, on internal projects such as continuous improvements to our work campus. Having the opportunity to work with fantastic colleagues, customers, and partners on a daily basis, is my main motivator.

During the last year, I’ve been lucky enough to visit our teams in India and the US, attend forums and meet with our customers. This has really reiterated the importance of our role in the logistics flow.

My favourite thing is to put on my steel toe cap boots and do a walkthrough of our operation, speaking to our teams to understand their challenges, the opportunities that there are for us to transform our business, and also to have a look at what unique cargo we’re moving – because it is so fascinating.

How did you get into your current role?

I studied medical biochemistry at university. During one Summer holiday, I undertook work experience with British Airways, and I just loved the energy of being in an operational environment. After graduating I worked at KPMG, then when a role arose at British Airways, I jumped on it. I’m always looking at different ways to challenge myself and progress within my career, so I actively sought out new opportunities within the IAG Group, and that’s how I arrived at IAG Cargo. I really enjoy it, because you get to understand the business end to end and it is even more dynamic than the passenger side of the airline industry. You also have to understand the global economic backdrop (what’s driving/ impacting consumer demand). It makes the role incredibly interesting.

What initiatives are there in the business to support women?

A lot! We have a significant number of women in our Leadership Team, which helps provide role models for women at the start of their careers within our organisation. At IAG Cargo, we also sponsor individuals through female leadership development programmes, tailored to providing individuals with the support they need to reach the next step in their careers. Personally, I also mentor many women, both internally and externally to IAG Cargo.

Women within the logistics industry are not commonplace, so when I go to customer events and see a woman in a senior position, I know how hard she’s worked to get there. I’ll introduce myself and have that automatic connection, which is powerful, because it draws you together in terms of a network. However, it’s really important to find male supporters as well. Male allies who understand the importance of fostering an inclusive, welcoming, and equitable culture can help break down barriers. If I want my daughters to aspire to become female leaders without the barriers and challenges I faced to get here, then the fastest way to do that is get all allies on board too, regardless of gender – there should be no sides as we’re all in this together.

Lorena Restrepo, Head of Planning and Control, Madrid 

Tell us about your role as Head of Planning and Control. 

I’ve been in the role for two years, working with an exceptional team of mostly women to strengthen air cargo operations across the globe. I lead four core areas: business planning, (financial planning, forecast and analysis), standards and procedures (compliance with local and global authorities, including safety and security regulators), third-party handling (ground handling operations provided for other airlines in Madrid such as American Airlines and LATAM) and customer service (air cargo operations in 26 airports in Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar).

Each area is very different, so the teams often come together to share ideas on how everyone deals with challenges on a daily basis. One of my main tasks is to implement the Transformation Plan, a huge undertaking that started in 2021 and originally focussed on our six key projects. I took this a step further, so it also concentrates on people development and improving our ways of working across different areas.

As part of our current Transformation Plan, everyone is empowered and, as a team, we improve existing ideas and propose new ones that result in us not only achieving but exceeding our objectives to deliver high-impact projects. A huge part of this success came from recognising the value of diversity in terms of gender, backgrounds, professions, experiences and knowledge.

What could the industry do to attract more women?

We should continue to promote a diverse workplace and add more flexible working conditions. In air cargo, around 70 per cent of people work in operations, doing set 24-hour shifts that include weekends. This makes it quite challenging for women with children to have a work-life balance and so offering, for example, the opportunity to choose their shifts would be very beneficial to both individuals and the industry. More training on diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias would make a big difference as well.

Rooma Kaveria, Specialist Sales Manager in Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences, South Asia 

Tell us about your role. 

I manage sales for Constant Climate, IAG Cargo’s cold chain product for transporting temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals. My role is to drive compliance and improvements to the Pharma product portfolio, increasing market share with a focus on existing and new innovative solutions. I’ve been doing the role for one year now, and each day has been a learning process – that’s my favourite part of my job, alongside working with a dynamic and motivating team.

We’ve had a great start to 2023 and have moved life-saving vaccines for UNICEF to Africa, as well as biopharma and medicinal drugs to Europe, and North and Latin America for various Pharma giants, alongside the support of our global partners, suppliers and key customers.

Biggest accomplishment at IAG Cargo?

India is the world’s largest provider of generic medicines in terms of sheer volume and third in terms of pharmaceutical production. Our drugs are exported to more than 200 countries. Being part of such a massive supply chain, transporting health care and saving millions of lives across the globe is extremely fulfilling. Learning each day and using my knowledge accumulated over 18 years of working in aviation and cargo has helped me to better understand the product strategy and grow IAG Cargo’s business from the region.

Why is it important to have female representation in a traditionally male-dominated industry?

Gender diversity and equality is extremely valuable in the workplace. In India, since the last decade, there has been a shift towards this, however there’s still a long way to go. IAG Cargo has continued to take mindful steps. Caroline Andrews, our Chief People Officer, is committed to fostering an inclusive culture.

New data from The Equity Index 2022-23 has revealed that IAG Cargo has ranked second place out of FTSE 100 companies and their subsidiaries in terms of gender pay gap. Women are underrepresented in the industry, and, though there is a strong appetite for change, this will only happen with strong continued support at senior levels in the airfreight industry. We need the de-genderisation of roles to attract talent and help drive a more inclusive future for the industry and wider economy.

Discover more about the inspiring women at IAG Cargo: