Awesome: Iran Air Appoints A Female CEO

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Iran Air is trying to turn themselves around, and has taken delivery of quite a few new planes lately. This is all possible due to sanctions being lifted between Europe and Iran, which was first announced in early 2016. Prior to that Iranian airlines weren’t able to buy any new planes from Airbus or Boeing, though that’s finally changing. At one point they even intended to buy A380s, though it looks like that’s not happening.

Still, they’re very nicely modernizing what can only otherwise be described as a “vintage” fleet. They’ve already taken delivery of A320, A321, and A330 aircraft, and they have orders for A330-900neos, as well as A350s.

As part of their turnaround plan, Iran Air is appointing a new CEO, Farzaneh Sharafbafi, who happens to be a woman. Per the Tehran Times:

Sharafbafi, the current director general of Iran Air’s research department, will be the first-ever woman to head the national flag carrier, Fars reported.

She is also the first Iranian woman with a PhD in aerospace. She has already implemented several aviation projects and has taught various aerospace courses.

The aviation industry has been predominantly male for the longest time. For example, only about 5% of pilots in the US are female, and that number is much lower in many foreign countries. Much of the same is true of the executive leadership at airlines. For example, take a look at the board of governors of IATA, which represents hundreds of airlines around the world:

Notice anything? 😉

So it’s pretty great to see another female airline CEO, and in particular, in a country like Iran.

While I don’t have a more recent statistic, a 2014 Skift article suggested that only a dozen airline CEOs around the world were female at the time, which accounts for less than 5% of airline CEOs worldwide.

  1. “In Iran, women are more included into society than in some other middle east countries.”

    There, I fixed it for you.

  2. It is great to see Iran Air is making a comeback. Hope to see their direct flight from Tehran to New York is resumed soon under the new CEO.

  3. Not just Due to economic hardship in Iran, but also due to higher education, woman are finding their way into work force more and more. Their presence is not forbidden even in high ranking meeting and you see them as translators and guides all around different ministries in Iran.

  4. No, Ben, it’s due to the 2016 agreement between China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, and Iran. Because Airbus’s planes contain more than de minimis U.S. content, Airbus also requires a license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to sell a plane to an Iranian airline. Airbus therefore needed relief under both U.S. and EU sanctions. Until 2016, Treasury would not grant such a license. In case you missed it, in 2016 Boeing also inked a deal to sell a ton of planes to Iran Air.

    I am a longtime fan of your blog, but as a lawyer specializing in sanctions, your posts touching on these issues (for example, Cuba travel) lead me to yell at my computer screen in response.

  5. I think only our image of Iran is wrong in many parts. Women in Iran have a stronghold in every aspect of live, and many CEO are female. If Saudia would appoint an female CEO, that would indeed be noteworthy.

  6. @Rjb: are you retarded? Women can drive in Iran and have been able to do so for the last 30 years. Ridiculous. I think you’re thinking of SA

  7. @Ally – although I’ve heard Saudi has the same situation as China in which they make rules but don’t enforce them, because I’ve heard that plenty of women drive in Saudi despite the laws.

  8. It’s funny how people just don’t know what they talk about.
    Women in Iran (which by chance I also consider among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in any of my travel)are more included in the workforce and society than any other country in the middle east, and this also includes non-muslim countries. They are more included than in far eastern countries like Japan (where you’re pretty sure to find few or no woman on an industrial engineers meeting, or on a board of directors) as well, except probably Indonesia where it is also very common to see women on business meetings. Of course, not all Iran is the same. While you’ll find women at all levels of work in Teheran or Tabriz, you’ll most likely not find them in more remote places like Khuzestan. But this applies also to western countries, where more traditional areas still exist – it was only a few decades ago that women were supposed to take care of the household and the husband in the west as well.

  9. @Andy – No, women in Saudi don’t drive. It can happen that, in the middle of a desert highway, far away from the city, some rich people’s daughters do crazy stuff, like driving fast and teasing people (of course not covered by abayas -or other clothes, for that matter) knowing they’re untouchable, but normal people don’t do that. Maybe outside the cities an husband can let his wife drive to have some fun, but rules in the cities (which are where most people live) are usually enforced.

  10. What a weird deal. On one hand, you have a government who actively supports the destruction of Israel and developing nuclear weapons. On the other, they clearly treat women much, much better than allies like Saudi Arabia. Such a weird world we live in.

  11. Well, there are countries that really destroyed others (unlike Iran which uses Israel mostly to distract its own people and strenghten the regime, but will never ever move a step out of its borders), and really have nuclear weapons, and they treat women quite fine.

  12. Frankly, I prefer that the most competent person get the job – whether it’s being a CEO or flipping burgers – regardless of one’s gender, sexual orientation, political persuasion, etc. I don’t believe in diversity for the sake of diversity … and also don’t believe in other forms of discrimination.

    Hopefully, that is the case here.

  13. Prior to retiring I was CEO of a global FinTech company. I used to go to a lot of conferences. One time I met the CIO of the Tehran Stock Exchange – a woman – doubly eye opening due to IT being so male dominated in the West. But that’s just a weird kind of career-o-cultural problem in the West. Other cultures have/had the opposite. I remember in the late 80s working for a London based software firm that had a JV with a Belgrade based firm – in those days it was Yugoslavia. All the Yugoslavian software developers were women. It seems the local men did not view working at a keyboard to be worthy work in those days.

  14. Are we ever going to get over this gender thing Maybe she was just the best human being for the job!!

  15. QR has female pilots, now IR has a female CEO. They look into the future, not like the nasty wahabists in KSA… wonder they are jealous at Qatar and Iran…..! A very simplified reason for the GCC blockade of Qatar and their hate for Iran

  16. Iran is no paradise for women, but it’s miles better than our “ally” Saudi Arabia. It’s also significantly more civilised as it’s one of the oldest civilisations in the world unlike the sandeaters to their west.

  17. As an Iranian woman I am proud a young educated woman is CEO she also has
    PHD in engineering,it is quite achievement. It is not true woman were always being supported in society ,I could get a law degree in Iran almost 45 years ago ,got a job in that field as well

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