Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), told Congress earlier this week that 75% of flight attendants have been harassed in the last 12 months!
Nelson testified before the United States House of Representatives Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. In her testimony, she cited an AFA internal survey that will be published next month showing that “approximately 3 in 4 flight attendants have experienced sexual harassment, while only 7% of those flight attendants have reported it to their employer.”
That’s a startling statistic. While she did not explicitly define sexual harassment, she gave some hint to what it encapsulated in her testimony:
Even today, we are called pet names, patted on the rear when a passenger wants our attention, cornered in the back galley and asked about our “hottest” layover, and subjected to incidents not fit for print. Like the rest of our society, Flight Attendants have never had reason to believe that reports of the sexual harassment we experience on the job would be taken seriously, rather than dismissed or retaliated against.
Nelson noted that 80% of FAs are women. She added that harassment was “part of the job description” until recently and still is in many parts of the world, singling out a recent statement from the CEO of Qatar Airways:
Not that long ago, the industry marketed the objectification of “stewardesses,” a job only available to young, single, perfectly polished women who until 1993 were required to step on a weight scale. Just last year, Qatar CEO Al Baker referred to U.S. Flight Attendants as grandmothers and bragged about his younger crews that passenger want to look at.
In her testimony, Nelson praises Alaska Airlines’ CEO Brad Tilden and United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz for their strong condemnation of sexual harassment against women.
Folks, I’ve flown more than enough over the years to see misogyny and the mistreatment of women in many different forms. I don’t deny it nor do I downplay it. I do think the “internal survey” may overstate actual numbers, though. Those who have been sexually harassed would presumably be more likely to fill out the voluntary survey, thus skewing actual numbers. However, while the 75% number seems high and galley conversations need not necessarily be construed as harassment, let’s all do our part to treat FAs, and all humans, with dignity and respect.