You only need two hands to count the number of female Chief Executives leading major commercial airlines in 2017. It’s true, because there’s only around 10.

There’s a worldwide shortage of women taking charge of major carriers and surprisingly, Iran is hoping to change this by appointed its very first female airline boss.

Farzaneh Sharafbafi became an inspiration to young ladies around the world, particularly in the West Asian country, this week when she was named the next رئيس (boss) of Iran Air, succeeding Farhad Parvaresh.

Image: Iran Front Page

Image: Iran Front Page

To emphasise the importance of her appointment (not only to Iran but to the world), there are currently no female airline Chief Executives running any of the 20 major North American carriers. None. Not in Canada, the US or Mexico.

Australia’s very own Flying Kangaroo hasn’t had a female CEO in its 80+ years, nor has the world’s longest running airline, KLM.

Shall I continue?


In 2017, you can count the number of females running major commercial carriers on two hands because there are only around 10 (including Sharafbafi). A number of these women are leading airlines in countries that are often portrayed as being socially conservative towards females including Kuwait (Rasha Al Roumi runs Kuwait Airways), Tanzania (Sauda Rajabu runs Precision Air), Congo (Fatima Beyina-Moussa runs Equatorial Congo Airlines) and Namibia (Theo Miriam Namases is acting Managing Director of Air Namibia).

Other female Chief Executives can be found in Ecuador (Gabriela Sommerfeld Rosero runs Avianca Ecuador), Vietnam (Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao runs VietJet Air), Australia (Jayne Hrdlicka runs Jetstar), Ireland (Christine Ourmières runs Cityjet) and Britain (Carolyn McCall runs easyJet).

It’s a very small club of female airline Chief Executives.

Iran Air plane

Although it may be the first time we westerners have heard of Sharafbafi, the new CEO is no stranger to breaking gender barriers, as she was the first female Iranian to receive a PhD in aerospace and was up until recently the director of Training and Human Resources Development at the Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation.

In a 2014 interview with Iran Front Page, Sharafbafi said her passion for engineering and aerospace started at 10 years old, when she would take it upon herself to repair home appliances.

“My family provided me with the opportunity to learn through trial and error,” she said.

“I could fix all devices […] and I was very much interested in technical issues. That I could repair the vacuum cleaner prompted my parents to call me ‘The Engineer’ at home. I started with simple things.”

Click here to read more of the interview.

Congratulations Farzaneh Sharafbafi!

What are your thoughts on the appointment?