Recently, Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways, was asked a question about the lack of women in high-powered roles in airlines at the International Air Transportation Association’s (IATA) annual conference, reports HuffPost SA.

When Al Baker was asked what "he plans to do to bring more gender equality to airlines and bring more women into high-level positions specifically in Middle Eastern airline companies", he dismissed the question and responded with “Well, it’s not in Qatar Airways.” To which the reporter responded “Well, certainly it’s being led by a man?”

And then, Al Baker said “Of course it has to be led by a man. Because it is a very challenging position,” which led to gasps and groans from the press in the room. 

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You can listen to it below:

Then Al Baker tried to backtrack on his statement saying he was "only referring to one individual" and that he would welcome a woman as his successor says Business Insider.

He then issued an official apology via the company’s Twitter page

But while Al Baker can backtrack on his comments and apologise all he likes, it doesn’t diminish the fact that his first instinct was a sexist response and that he doesn’t recognise that there are women who are doing his job. 

Here we take a look at 5 female CEOs and the companies they manage. 

Sibongile Sambo – founder and CEO of SRS Aviation

Sibongile wanted to become a flight attendant with South African Airways, but didn’t meet the height requirement, so she decided to start her own business – SRS Aviation, Africa’s first female aviation company.

In 2004, Sibongile’s company became the first black operational enterprise in South Africa to be given full rights to undertake commercial flying activities. Her company now offers personalised services including helicopter flights, and tourist and luxury flights to destinations around the world. 

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Maria Ramos – CEO of ABSA Group

Maria joined Absa as Group Chief Executive in March 2009 after doing the same job with Transnet limited and before that she was Director General of the National Treasury. 

Maria started as a waste clerk for Barclays in 1977 and worked herself up from there. She has several degrees and has received honorary doctorates from Stellenbosch and Free State universities. She was named CNBC Africa Woman Leader of the Year (2011), and was awarded the Wits Business School’s Management Excellence Award (2010). She was named the Sunday Times Business Times Business Leader of the Year in 2005 and Businesswoman of the Year by the SA Businesswomen’s Association in 2001.

Safra Catz – CEO at Oracle Corporation

An Israeli born-American, Safra is the highest paid female CEO in the world right now raking in a whopping $40.7 million (around R530 million). And while we celebrate the fact that she’s the highest paid female CEO, we are still annoyed by the fact that she still gets paid $100 000 (over 1.2 million) less than her male co-CEO. 

She’s driven many a massive deal and according to reports was considered by the Trump administration as a replacement for National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, a job that went to John Bolton.

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Indra Nooyi – CEO at PepsiCo

The Indian-born American is ranked the second highest paid female CEO in the world with a salary of $25.9 million (around R335 million). She joined Pepsi in 1994 and held a variety of positions before she got the top job in 2006. 

She’s been ranked as number 13 on the Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2014 and was ranked second most powerful woman in the Fortune list in 2015. In February, it was announced by the International Cricket Council that she would join the ICC Board as its first independent female director.

Priscillah Mabelane – CEO of BP SA

In 2017, Priscillah became the first woman in the history of the country’s oil industry to head a multinational company. She joined the company as CFO in 2011 and in just six short years she became the CEO. 

She has more than 20 years of experience in many key leadership positions and has worked for Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), Ernst & Young, and Eskom. Priscillah has gone from attending primary school classes under a tree, to completing a two month advanced management course at Harvard University. 

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