Laura Macshane: Manager – communications business for good

Describe your job?
I bring together and communicate all the different things we’re doing to be a responsible airline, one that believes in using business as a force for good. That includes how we treat our people, our customers, our communities and our planet. And I manage our flagship community programme, Passport to Change.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why? What options seemed open or closed to you?
I wanted to be a writer, or editor, or journalist, or publisher – I was (am) obsessed with words and stories. But, even though my marks were just as good in science and maths as in English, I never considered a future in STEM. It’s a failing of the UK education system that you’re forced to select your A-levels at 16. I chose to focus on just the Arts (literature, languages, classics), and it’s only recently that I’ve realised I was limiting my options by not doing a science or maths A-level.

What in your job has given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfilment?
Rolling out Passport to Change. Our partnership with WE has always produced amazing results, but the impact we’re making now is on a whole new level. We’re building relationships in our local communities that didn’t exist before, inspiring young people to think differently about their future, and providing development opportunities for our people. It’s incredibly fulfilling.

What keeps you motivated?
Other people’s positive energy! And knowing that the people I work with genuinely care about the responsibility of our business to act as a force for good in our world.

What women have inspired you?
My grandmother, who eloped to Vietnam from France in her early twenties and raised two children in an entirely foreign country. Pre internet! I just think she had such courage to do that. My fearless mother, who in her late fifties, started a brand new job in a new country, away from her partner, children and friends. She inspires me to be bold in grabbing life’s opportunities. And outside of my immediate family – Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Greta Thunberg. They both speak truth to power, stand up to bullies, and are proof that your youth or relative inexperience has nothing to do with the strength and integrity of your message.

How do you think women’s equality has evolved and what needs to happen next?
It’s of course true that women have more rights than they did 100 years ago. We can vote, own property, have jobs, lead teams, decide to have children or not. But this shouldn’t instil a false sense of security, that equality is “done”. There are still masses of people who want to take away women’s rights, who firmly believe women and men are not equal and have different roles to play in society. I reject this entirely – yes, our bodies are physically and biologically different. But we should be valued equally, as people, for the contributions we make to society, to the economy and to our communities.

What needs to happen next is embedding non-transferable parental leave as standard. There shouldn’t be a difference between “maternity” or “paternity” leave – both mums and dads should get the same time off. The gender pay gap widens as women take time off to have children. If they return to work, they’re more likely to do part-time, or not take up senior positions because of responsibilities at home. This won’t change until fathers are just as likely to take time off to raise their children as mothers.

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