Working abroad as a female consultant in the aviation industry

Carolin Heger, Senior Consultant at MAI

The day I started working at the Munich Airport Information Desk in 1998, I had no idea where it would lead me to, much less did I know what a huge and passionate impact it would have on my life. Besides big planes, being airside and the interaction with all stakeholders that make an airport function, like most, I love to travel too. After 21 years working in airport operations, I am still till this day, just as excited as I was from the get go to jump onto a plane and face my next challenge abroad to be part of a new or expanding airport. This mostly in the Middle East, where as one would imagine, being a woman could be a little challenging. I for one, am unfazed by race, age or gender, much less a different religion to my own and love experiencing and exploring other cultures. We are all people from different backgrounds and at the end of the day we have one collective goal to achieve together and that’s making our projects succeed.

My experiences especially with the Arabic culture would astound many. Reason being, no matter if I was working in Egypt, Oman or Saudi Arabia, I would always be received with respect and hospitality. Obviously, aviation in these countries is known to be even more male-dominated than it is in Europe. While you can find an increasing number of women working in airport terminal operations, either in a control center, as Terminal Duty Officers or for an airline, the percentage of women working airside is less than 1 per cent and in some countries it is even 0 per cent.

Carolin Heger, Senior Consultant at Munich Airport International (MAI), loves her diversified project work abroad.
The first flight arriving at a newly opened airport is always a great experience.

Respect and kindness is one of the keys to success

Before becoming a consultant, I was also working as a part-time pushback driver at Munich Airport for 10 years, pushing and towing aircraft. And I knew already back then how it felt to work in a male-dominated position, being 1 of just 3 women in a team of 130 men. Despite the number of women working airside in Europe is steadily increasing.

During my projects in the Middle East, I was developing concepts for different airside activities together with a 100 per cent male team including training pushback drivers on new procedures. I expected more resistance, but I have to admit it was surprisingly easy and successful, after they got over their initial shock that a woman is able to push or tow an aircraft. My overall experience with living and working in the Middle East was entirely positive and people made it easy to feel at home. To be honest, I sometime miss the hospitality, genuine friendliness and slower pace of this culture and not to forget the delicious food and sunshine every day.

Through my experiences in projects in the Middle East, Africa, Japan, US or Bermuda, the fact that respect and kindness is the key to success is verified to what I knew it to be since starting my career in this exciting, rewarding and challenging business. Being a consultant has definitely expanded my horizons and is thoroughly enriched by all my encounters with everyone in the aviation industry that come from all walks of life, gender and cultures. I am excited for MAI´s future projects and new endeavors for my team and I in this continuously developing industry that will also keep empowering women.