Female Qantas Pilot Sues For Sexual Harassment

Female Qantas Pilot Sues For Sexual Harassment

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The Australian has the story of how a female Qantas pilot who pioneered gender equality at the airline is now suing her employer for sexual harassment and discrimination.

What a female pilot has allegedly put up with

Davida Forshaw has been a Qantas pilot for 23 years, though is currently on medical leave. She has been a mentor to other aspiring female pilots, and is the director of JEDI (justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion) of Piloting Mindset, a consulting company for airline pilots.

Forshaw is now suing her employer, and a lawsuit outlined the sexual discrimination she has faced at the airline over the years. Some of the accusations are simply awful, though sadly I can’t say I’m surprised. Among other things, according to Forshaw:

  • She received sexual advances from a Qantas captain at a hotel in Bangkok, and he then wrote her a bad performance review; when she reported this, she was told “no, he is a Qantas captain, everyone will believe him and not you”
  • She was once told she “would do a lot better if she dyed her hair blonde and wore a push up bra”
  • On International Women’s Day in 2018, two male pilots told her they could not wait for “this sh*t” to be over,” referring to a day dedicated to women
  • During a trip to Rome in 2002, a captain told her “I thought your name was Davo, what f*cking use will you be to me on this trip, I bet you don’t even drink beer”
  • On a trip in 2019, a captain told a sexually explicit joke, and then said “you’re not going to be one of those ‘O’ women, are you?”; when she asked for clarification, he said “women who are O-ffended at everything”
  • During an engineering briefing, she was told to get coffee for her male colleagues

Forshaw also claims that this sexual discrimination has prevented her from becoming a captain. During her training to become a captain (which she hasn’t been successful with):

  • During a training session, one of the pilots rolled his eyes at her when she asked a technical question, saying “why on earth would you think that is an important question?”; she claims the pilot was “derisive, combative, and hostile” toward her
  • During another training simulation, a pilot repeatedly rolled his eyes at her when she would ask questions, and was “rude and disrespectful”
  • During another training session, two pilots would cut her out of their conversations during important training sessions, deliberately choosing discussion points she could not contribute to”

With this lawsuit, Forshaw is demanding that she receive a monetary settlement for the harassment she has put up with, and she has also requested that Qantas establish a quota system to increase the percentage of female pilots it employs.

Below you can see a Qantas video Forshaw was featured in, on International Women’s Day, no less.

Qantas’ statement about these allegations

A Qantas spokesperson issued the following statement about the allegations:

“We took immediate action when Ms. Forshaw made her complaint after being unsuccessful in a module required to be promoted to a captain.”

“The employees she accused of discrimination or misconduct were stood down from work while we investigated. The claims of discrimination were not substantiated.”

“Ms. Forshaw has recently made additional allegations about other historical incidents. We were not previously aware of these incidents and have asked Ms. Forshaw for further information so we can investigate.”

Qantas is now investigating these incidents

My take on this lawsuit

As it stands, just over 5% of airline pilots globally are female, and even worse, just over 1% of captains globally are female. Obviously that’s an issue, and it’s something that many airlines are working to improve. The numbers still differ significantly around the globe — in Saudi Arabia, 0% of airline pilots are female, while in India, 13% of airline pilots are female.

There’s simply no denying that currently some gender discrimination exists among pilots, whether conscious or subconscious. Not too long ago I was sitting at a hotel bar near three male pilots for a major US airline, and the amount of sexism and homophobia I heard made my blood boil.

“Locker room talk” is still very much an accepted practice among many pilots, because there’s no one to stop them. I won’t talk about what I think the causes are for that, but I think we can all agree that one way to stop it is to make the cockpit more diverse. The more diverse a crowd, the more conscious people are of what they say, and that’s a good thing.

I don’t for a second doubt that virtually all female pilots have experienced sexual harassment at some point. A recent study found that female pilots were three times more likely to experience sexual harassment than male pilots (and frankly that still seems surprisingly low).

While the sexual harassment needs to be addressed, what I can’t say with confidence is if that was the reason she wasn’t promoted to captain. There are obviously lots of factors that could contribute to her not getting the upgrade, despite going through the training. Did she just not have the knowledge needed to be captain, and if so, was the lack of knowledge because the male instructors weren’t treating her the same?

It’s certainly possible…

Female pilots face significantly more discrimination than male counterparts

Bottom line

A female Qantas pilot has made some pretty awful accusations against the airline for sexual harassment and discrimination. In addition to all kinds of alleged incidents where male pilots spoke to her in an inappropriate way, she also claims she hasn’t been upgraded to captain due to discrimination.

I’m curious to see how this plays out in court — hopefully Qantas takes these accusations seriously.

What do you make of this lawsuit against Qantas?

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  1. Rastus Guest

    The allegations were investigated by the most woke organisation in Australia: Qantas’ own HR department; and found to be baseless.

    They were in fact baseless. This is what happened.

    When a pilot upgrades to be a Captain in Qantas they complete a lengthy Course which involves a training phase, both in the Simulator and Aircraft, and a Checking phase also in both simulator and Aircraft. This took me six months when I did it.

    ...

    The allegations were investigated by the most woke organisation in Australia: Qantas’ own HR department; and found to be baseless.

    They were in fact baseless. This is what happened.

    When a pilot upgrades to be a Captain in Qantas they complete a lengthy Course which involves a training phase, both in the Simulator and Aircraft, and a Checking phase also in both simulator and Aircraft. This took me six months when I did it.

    The pilot in question was in the checking phase, in the simulator. A qualified first officer is always supplied to support these sessions to make up a basic crew.

    The simulator session did not go well and she did not meet the required standard to pass the session, so the session syllabus was halted, she was informed of such and offered the chance to continue the session as training to correct the items she had some problems with, and return in the next day or so to re fly the original session.

    She refused this offer and made a formal complaint of discrimination against her by the Check Captain running the session.

    So the two pilots involved in this simulator session, both males, were stood down (paid) for the SIX MONTHS it took for QANTAS to clear them of any wrongdoing.

    These pilots were not contacted by Qantas Flight Operations during this time and both suffered Mental Health issues as a result. One has PTSD. Their names were also published in some newspaper reports of the case.

    This of course inevitably became known to the wider pilot population at QANTAS and as a result, most have, understandably, refused to fly or be involved in a simulator session with her, lest they suffer the same fate.

    This is why she is currently not flying and the reason she has gone public because her career is effectively over and she has doubled down now for a exit payment from Qantas.

    The sad thing is, that had she accepted the alternative training offer, there is every chance she would now be a Captain, like the nine other recently promoted female pilots.

    Instead she faces having to prove discrimination where the Qantas HR department could not, and explain the details of her training record, held by QANTAS, versus the details of other female pilots to a Court of Law.

    Very sad and unnecessary for all involved

  2. Mike Guest

    I’m the last 2 years, 10 females have reached the seniority AND nominated for Command course.

    Of the 10, 9 passed and became Qantas Captains. Only the pilot taking Qantas to court failed.

  3. Mike C Diamond

    Rubbish. Virtually no women in Australia use the title 'Mrs' regardless of marital status, they almost invariably use 'Ms'.

  4. philelltt Member

    At present she has filed an application to the court under section 539 of the fair work act. That costs $77. 80. About $50 US.
    It remains to be seen if she is "fair dinkum" in wanting to appoint a law firm and barristers to represent her case or if she is instead engineering a media blowup,just to get a cash settlement made out of court. In the latter case she can proceed with accusations and avoid having to present evidence.

  5. EK_engineer Guest

    The disconnect between the manufactured facade of QANTAS under Joyce as a full-on woke, diverse, inclusive, safe-space, [fill in on your favourite woke term] and reality is exposed for all to see. If all this is true, it happened mostly under his watch. I've never seen a QF CEO (and I knew both Mr. Strong and Mr. Dixon) who was more obsessed with preening and playing what Americans call "culture wars". My connection with QF...

    The disconnect between the manufactured facade of QANTAS under Joyce as a full-on woke, diverse, inclusive, safe-space, [fill in on your favourite woke term] and reality is exposed for all to see. If all this is true, it happened mostly under his watch. I've never seen a QF CEO (and I knew both Mr. Strong and Mr. Dixon) who was more obsessed with preening and playing what Americans call "culture wars". My connection with QF goes back to 1980, and I can tell you he is the worst boss. And the company is in the worst shape it's ever been in.

  6. Malc Member

    I don't think there are zero in Saudi Arabia: https://www.arabnews.com/node/2086611/saudi-arabia

  7. iamhere Guest

    Hope that it is not just based on what she claims and she has proof.
    Your comparison of countries, you have to consider local policies and practices.

  8. AJ Guest

    Qantas is a company that embodies the worst of corporate Australia. A company that pretends to be diverse and inclusive but in reality has one of the most discriminatory and toxic workplace cultures in the country.

  9. Neil Guest

    Because you take the course to be upgraded to Captain does not necessarily mean you are automatically going to be promoted, the fact you are female should have no bearing on the pass or fail results. It would seem that Qantas does not consider the Pilot in question does not meet their requirements. Do you wish Qantas to promote her for the sake of diversity,which is what she and your article are pushing for. As...

    Because you take the course to be upgraded to Captain does not necessarily mean you are automatically going to be promoted, the fact you are female should have no bearing on the pass or fail results. It would seem that Qantas does not consider the Pilot in question does not meet their requirements. Do you wish Qantas to promote her for the sake of diversity,which is what she and your article are pushing for. As a Qantas FF I personally want competent and qualified pilots in charge of the aircraft when I fly.

    1. uldguy Diamond

      Of course everyone wants only qualified pilots in the cockpit. But that isn’t what is being questioned here. Did she not pass captain training because of her skills and experience as a pilot? Or, did she not make it to captain because she is a woman? That had not been answered and it will likely require the courts to sort it all out.

      In the meantime, how many female pilots does QANTAS have on...

      Of course everyone wants only qualified pilots in the cockpit. But that isn’t what is being questioned here. Did she not pass captain training because of her skills and experience as a pilot? Or, did she not make it to captain because she is a woman? That had not been answered and it will likely require the courts to sort it all out.

      In the meantime, how many female pilots does QANTAS have on the roster, and how many have made it to captain? If the answer is “a few” then that may be a problem.

  10. Mark Guest

    This is why programs like United’s Aviate school are so important. Already employing the most female pilots of US carriers, Aviate will further increase diversity without sacrificing any skill sets among the group.

  11. JOJO Guest

    She must believed 100% and any one who claims to suffer sexual discrimination at the hands of evil white men must be believed. Except for Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, and Tara Reade. They are lying

    1. Julia Guest

      Never mind the millions of cases where it is true and sexual discrimination happened.

  12. Duck Ling Guest

    As with all things 'discriminatory' it has to be asked whether the same would have happened if she was a male.

    Aussies are pretty upfront. If you ask a question that they think is stupid, you will get an eye roll - whether you have a penis or a vagina.

    There is part of me than cannot help but feel that there is an element of sour grapes here as she did not pass her...

    As with all things 'discriminatory' it has to be asked whether the same would have happened if she was a male.

    Aussies are pretty upfront. If you ask a question that they think is stupid, you will get an eye roll - whether you have a penis or a vagina.

    There is part of me than cannot help but feel that there is an element of sour grapes here as she did not pass her command (Captain) training.

    I mean WHY would you bring up an issue that happened in 2002 now in 2022? And we aren't talking about a sensational revelation here we are talking about sitting on a comment about drinking beer for twenty years? Eh??

  13. Sel, D. Guest

    I can’t believe they asked her to get coffee. If you ask any non-male identifying persons to get coffee or for the team it’s clearly sexual discrimination. Full stop.

  14. Tim Dunn Diamond

    If QF can ignore or their employees can get by with behavior that is illegal, then perhaps the best career moves for women in Australia is into the legal, justice, and HR fields.
    Sexual harassment sadly occurs even where it is illegal. The way to change culture is to be in positions of leadership where making change is possible - and it doesn't have to be women alone doing this type of work.

  15. 9volt Member

    Why is it assumed that just because 5% of pilots are female, that it is due to gender discrimination? Can't it be chalked up to the fact that for the overwhelming majority of females, the pilot occupation just doesn't appeal to them? For the same reason we see very few female truck drivers, female oil rig workers, and female plumbers. Should we force diversity in those jobs too? Or could it be that many females simply just don't like that kind of work?

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      The US Supreme Court is hearing a case on racial based quotas in higher education at this hour.
      Some careers skew one way or another due to historic reasons such as that the majority of pilots used to come from the military = which wasn't an option for many women either by law or by choice.
      Obstacles need to be removed so people that can do a job are given that opportunity but...

      The US Supreme Court is hearing a case on racial based quotas in higher education at this hour.
      Some careers skew one way or another due to historic reasons such as that the majority of pilots used to come from the military = which wasn't an option for many women either by law or by choice.
      Obstacles need to be removed so people that can do a job are given that opportunity but trying to correct history including the percentages of existing rather than new entrant people into a career area almost always create even more issues.

    2. Matt Guest

      Certainly could be. It is also possible that women don't like those jobs because of the men who create hostile environments in those positions.

    3. Eve Guest

      Tim Dunn has a point, historically many pilots came from military, which as of now in majority of the world prevents female participation.

      A case is Aeroflot, I worked briefly on a consultancy level for the airline before the war. And you can very much see a good portion of the pilots in the airline were former or retired Russian Air Force, which strictly prevents female combatants.

      You must also remember, there was...

      Tim Dunn has a point, historically many pilots came from military, which as of now in majority of the world prevents female participation.

      A case is Aeroflot, I worked briefly on a consultancy level for the airline before the war. And you can very much see a good portion of the pilots in the airline were former or retired Russian Air Force, which strictly prevents female combatants.

      You must also remember, there was also hurdle and bias on selection of pilots for almost the entire 20th century.

      This has changed over the past few years and your point is invalidated by the fact that 13% of the pilots in a more conservative country like India are female. I also know that 5 out of the 11 cadets in a certain European carrier’s cadet programme are female.

      Change needs time, but you also need to remove the social bias before those changes can happen

      And if you didn’t think, as a female, i do have a PPL and i am interested in pursuing commercial in a few years.

    4. Eskimo Guest

      So basically everyone is suggesting the military is racist.

    5. Petri Diamond

      Traditionally, it has been more difficult for women to become pilots. Back in the 1980's when I was accepted to fighter pilot training in the Finnish Air Force the requirement was to sigh a non-terminable service contract for 11 years. Just to prevent as from switching over to Finnair or other commercial airlines wirh double pay. No women were allowed into armed forces. But, times are changing. To my delight, I just took a flight...

      Traditionally, it has been more difficult for women to become pilots. Back in the 1980's when I was accepted to fighter pilot training in the Finnish Air Force the requirement was to sigh a non-terminable service contract for 11 years. Just to prevent as from switching over to Finnair or other commercial airlines wirh double pay. No women were allowed into armed forces. But, times are changing. To my delight, I just took a flight with two female pilots and all male cabin crew.

  16. Maryland Guest

    Sadly for women working in a male dominated field, her story is entirely believable. Policies put in place, laws enacted, training seminars have brought awareness, but not much change. My guess is maybe a couple generations down the road it will improve with an increased female workforce. Issues like hers are difficult to prove and complaints often fuel the harassment. Best to have a thick skin and a quick mind to outmaneuver the unenlightened.
    ...

    Sadly for women working in a male dominated field, her story is entirely believable. Policies put in place, laws enacted, training seminars have brought awareness, but not much change. My guess is maybe a couple generations down the road it will improve with an increased female workforce. Issues like hers are difficult to prove and complaints often fuel the harassment. Best to have a thick skin and a quick mind to outmaneuver the unenlightened.
    That said, you must be able to perform equally and without more details regarding the premonition it's difficult to judge.

  17. uldguy Diamond

    Working for an Australian company I can tell you that what they can get away with in regards to things they say and do “down under” is shocking. Sexual discrimination happens everywhere, but from what I’ve observed in Australia it is simply laughed off or swept under the rug.

    If these allegations are true then QANTAS has some soul-searching to do. Changing a corporate culture is never easy but perhaps they should start now.

  18. Mantis Guest

    These claims seems to me like normal life. Someone hit on you? Someone said something offensive? Oh no! Someone hurt your feelings? Awww. Wait, who hasn't dealt with shitty coworkers? And Is it possible that she actually deserved a bad performance review? Are women allowed to get bad performance reviews, or is that alone discrimination? You are obviously in fact one of those "O" women. In fact, I think your entire career and side gig...

    These claims seems to me like normal life. Someone hit on you? Someone said something offensive? Oh no! Someone hurt your feelings? Awww. Wait, who hasn't dealt with shitty coworkers? And Is it possible that she actually deserved a bad performance review? Are women allowed to get bad performance reviews, or is that alone discrimination? You are obviously in fact one of those "O" women. In fact, I think your entire career and side gig has been a long term effort to compile a lifetime of petty little grievances into a big payday lawsuit.

    1. digital_notmad Gold

      Those things are not normal life to normal people; if they are to you, then perhaps you need to work on yourself.

    2. Ole Guest

      @Mantis, for everybody’s sake, I hope you are not in a supervisory position. But if you are, I pity your colleagues and employees. God help them.

  19. Charles Guest

    While discrimination has no place in society, Quota Systems are a FAILED ideology of the far left. If someone has a problem with example, the amount of female pilots, then the MOST productive action is to make sure there are a HIGHER number of skilled female pilots that are acquiring lots of experience and hours such that over a period of time, the numbers MAY raise. All quotas will do, is leave you with an...

    While discrimination has no place in society, Quota Systems are a FAILED ideology of the far left. If someone has a problem with example, the amount of female pilots, then the MOST productive action is to make sure there are a HIGHER number of skilled female pilots that are acquiring lots of experience and hours such that over a period of time, the numbers MAY raise. All quotas will do, is leave you with an INFERIOR selection of pilots/captains that pose a FAR higher risk to society.

    1. Ole Guest

      I agree with you, however the problem most companies/systems face is, lack of motivation to do change. Without quota, people in charge won’t be “accountable” for ensuring diversity and they’ll maintain status quo. That being said, since the issue the mindset set of these folks, they view these quotas as a box to tick and hence poor quality of recruits. Personally correct approach should be to put in place leaders (at all levels) who buy...

      I agree with you, however the problem most companies/systems face is, lack of motivation to do change. Without quota, people in charge won’t be “accountable” for ensuring diversity and they’ll maintain status quo. That being said, since the issue the mindset set of these folks, they view these quotas as a box to tick and hence poor quality of recruits. Personally correct approach should be to put in place leaders (at all levels) who buy into the idea of diversity with quality.

  20. Mark in Sydney Guest

    Lee is dead right. As an Australian male I’m sickened on a daily basis by the backward nature of Australian society. Anyone who comes to its defence really isn’t in touch with the society. Australia is backwards in so many areas whilst NZ has streaked ahead. Human rights simply don’t exist. Without going into details my profession has put me face to face with the basic lack of basic human rights in Australia.

  21. Lee Guest

    Australian men are notoriously abusive towards women. It is a widely known facet of Australian culture.

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uldguy Diamond

Working for an Australian company I can tell you that what they can get away with in regards to things they say and do “down under” is shocking. Sexual discrimination happens everywhere, but from what I’ve observed in Australia it is simply laughed off or swept under the rug. If these allegations are true then QANTAS has some soul-searching to do. Changing a corporate culture is never easy but perhaps they should start now.

8
digital_notmad Gold

Those things are not normal life to normal people; if they are to you, then perhaps you need to work on yourself.

7
Mark in Sydney Guest

Lee is dead right. As an Australian male I’m sickened on a daily basis by the backward nature of Australian society. Anyone who comes to its defence really isn’t in touch with the society. Australia is backwards in so many areas whilst NZ has streaked ahead. Human rights simply don’t exist. Without going into details my profession has put me face to face with the basic lack of basic human rights in Australia.

4
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