March 08, 2020

Thriving in a male dominated field


Leona Qi, President of VistaJet US Inc. joined the Women and Worth 2020 conference in advance of International Women’s Day.

Women in the workplace studies report that 1 in 5 women say they are the only woman in the room. This plays out in the C-suite where only 1 in 5 executives is a woman and only 1 in 25 C-suite executives is a woman of color. What can we learn from women who have thrived being an “only”?

Leona Qi serves as President of VistaJet US. With her leadership, her team is responsible for growing the client base in North America, the largest market in private aviation. The North America region has seen double-digit year-on-year growth for VistaJet over successive years.

Qi is a fine example of the industry’s ‘hidden side’. She’s a key player but neither pilot nor engineer, and she doesn’t work in the cabin.

As President of VistaJet US and formerly President of Asia-Pacific, how do you manage the extensive US team?

It’s a much larger market than Asia, but with far more competition. The pitch is all about efficiency, time saving and the aircraft as a tool. Around 4,000 US airports can be accessed by private jet and it really is a time machine.

Some believe that women need to see other women in jobs they might themselves aspire to, otherwise they’ll never have that inspiration. What do you think would encourage more young women into your respective industries?

I’d say to any women considering an aviation career that if you’re not really interested, you shouldn’t go for it. But if you are, it’s not about gender, it’s about being good at the job. Aviation is also all about the numbers. You need financial knowledge in private aviation, because these machines are very expensive, depreciating assets. A VistaJet aircraft takes off or lands more than 100 times every day somewhere around the world, which makes each day different and exciting.

How do you empower your team to become leaders?

I definitely think mentorship is important, not just for the mentee but for the mentor themselves.

At VistaJet we have an internship program, It’s important that each VP and the associate in my team gets to mentor someone and encourage their interest in private aviation. Through these internships I have seen that my team have become even better, because as they pass on their knowledge, they are reflecting on what they are doing and what they could be doing better. I always want each of my team leaders to take ownership of what they doing.

In general I think there is a shortage of very talented young people in private aviation, not just women, so i think it’s great to have a program which encourages all people to learn about the industry.

What do you hope to achieve in the future?

In the next five years I really hope that half of women in aviation will be in management roles and more importantly, my personal goal for me, my team and for VistaJet, is that in the next five years our client base can grow from 5% women to 25% of women being passengers; ultimately this will mean that a lot more women will be in c-suite positions.