Hawkair’s Jocelyn Lebell has been selected as the first entrant into the regional airline’s program aimed at training and promoting female executives.

Local airline develops female executives

Hawkair hopes to change the culture of the airline industry so that more women enter the executive ranks

Jay Dilley is doing something most people might find unusual.

The president of regional air carrier Hawkair has started a program to mentor people who could very well take his job one day.

But he’s also out to change the culture of the airline industry so that more women enter the executive ranks.

The result is an executive development program open to existing female Hawkair employees.

“It needs to be done,” said Dilley in noting that while women are underrepresented in the aircraft engineering and pilot categories, they’re “practically non existent” at the upper management levels.

He put together the idea for the program shortly after arriving last fall from a job with an airline in Yellowknife.

“I just thought it was the thing to do,” said Dilley, adding that the program’s foundation is to develop the talent that’s already evident in those who will participate.

The program’s first participant is Jocelyn Lebell, who began in its marketing department close to 11 years ago and who has a business management diploma from the BC Institute of Technology.

She gradually assumed more responsibility over the years and reached the position of revenue manager.

Over the course of two years, Lebell will have spent time learning the detailed ins and outs of Hawkair’s three operating divisions – its aviation services section, its airline section and its corporate services section.

It means a full exposure to everything from what’s involved in Hawkair’s daily flights to human resources.

“I was interested as soon as I heard about the program,” said Lebell. “In some ways it was a natural transition from what I have been doing.”

The Hawkair program is also a natural fit to Lebell’s studying for her certified management accounting credentials.

If those studies are the academic side of her career development, then the Hawkair program is the practical side, she adds.

“We’ve selected a truly talented individual with a ton of potential,” said Dilley, who looks forward to other Hawkair female employees expressing an interests in the program.

Hawkair, which began as a cargo carrier in the 1990s,   has a fleet of four Dash 8 aircraft operating scheduled flights from Terrace-Kitimat, Smithers and Prince Rupert to Vancouver. Its charter services include ferrying workers from Alcan’s smelter project.