As the aerospace industry grows in China, so, too, does Airbus’s presence here as an equal-opportunity employer.
From the mobility of its female managers to the almost 30% overall female employment rate at Airbus China, Airbus encourages women to take the lead during this exciting time in global aviation.
Ma Yumin, Zhuo Yu, and Yu Meng are three outstanding examples of female leadership at the Airbus Final Assembly Line (FAL-C) in Tianjin. The women discuss how their immersion into a new global workplace has changed their lives and given them opportunities they couldn’t have seized anywhere else.
How do you feel as a woman at the FAL Tianjin?
Zhuo Yu: Within the Airbus environment, we only consider the abilities of a person for his or her capacity, ability, experience, knowledge; it is not the case that someone assumes, ‘You’re female, we can’t put you in this position'.
I’m Director of Flightline and Ground Handling, and I’m really thankful that the top management gave me a chance to lead this team, which I would say is 99% male, blue-collar technicians. No one ever told me they didn’t believe I was up to the challenge. Instead, they encouraged me to take this opportunity, and provided the training to support me in this role.
Do you feel like there is room for progress in your career here?
Ma Yumin: I started working in FAL-C as the material management manager, reporting to the head of my department, who was from Germany. In 2009, I was promoted to succeed him as Supply Chain and Transport & Logistics Director, with 3 functional teams.
I was the first Chinese employee to succeed an expat manager, which allowed for a lot of personal development. In the ensuing years, I then developed my team members into managerial positions and provided internal mobility opportunities to colleagues demonstrating good performance.
I believe that as Airbus continues develop in China, there will be more room for personal development as well.
By the numbers
“When the FAL Tianjin was announced, we engineers were all very excited to have the opportunity to work on the final assembly line,” says Zhou Yu, now Director of Flightline and Ground Handling at FAL-C. “I’m lucky to have gotten an interview – I heard we had nearly 5,000 people apply for one position.”
We’ve all worked in 'international' companies in China before, but at Airbus we are actually working side by side with German, French, Spanish and British colleagues—it’s a big, diverse family.
What, in your opinion, does Airbus’ presence mean for Tianjin? For you?
Yu Meng: Airbus in Tianjin motivates the city’s economic development, and lends integrity to the promotion of the field of aviation in Tianjin. Professionally, I have learned a lot about civil aviation and modern enterprise management skills. Personally, I think the unique combination of Western and Eastern cultures here leads to new ways of thinking and working in our daily lives.
Airbus opened its first assembly line outside Europe in Tianjin in 2008, with its contract now extended until 2025. The facilities will also host an A330 Completion and Delivery Centre. Meanwhile, In September 2015, Airbus Helicopters signed an historic production contract for the EC175, covering more than 1,000 units in 20 years.
All of these milestones signal opportunities for ambitious professionals like Zhuo Yu to advance their careers with Airbus.
Philippe Pezet, Airbus Regional HR Director for Greater China and East Asia, provides insights into some of the cultural factors influencing female workers in Asia today.
Especially in China, one of the key cultural factors is a strong family emphasis on education when high potential women are growing up—which leads them to high educational attainment and often an opportunity to study abroad.
On the flip side, family plays a central role here, and caretaking can limit women’s ability to take up career opportunities - particularly involving mobility or overseas assignments, but also for roles that require long working hours and late night conference calls.
Similar to Europe, many women look forward to the challenges and learning opportunities that senior leadership positions bring, and they appreciate the recognition, sense of achievement and ability to make a positive impact on others that go along with increased responsibility.
Work-life balance is a priority. Women in Asia, particularly those fulfilling regional or global roles, face challenges that may not be faced by their counterparts in Europe. Companies like Airbus must consider policies, programmes and work culture that address the impact on social and family life.
We’ve found the most often-expressed concerns about moving into a more senior role are related to work-life balance issues and the time needed to do a good job.