13 Sep Male CFAs – The Glass Ceiling in Business Aviation
It’s no secret that the flight attendant industry is predominately females. Alongside nurses, its one occupation that is historically synonymous with “women”.
But what about the men that are breaking into these female-dominated industries? Does the proverbial glass ceiling women have been battling to shatter in every other profession get a gender reversal in the world of Business Aviation Flight Attendants? I tapped the shoulder of one of my dear friends and industry colleagues Joseph Musso to share his own experience and truth with being a male Corporate Flight Attendant in this exciting industry.
What do you love most about your job? Share one of your favorite flying stories!
Apart from the destinations, the dedicated and hardworking crew members (who become your second family) and the general lifestyle of being on the road, the thing that I love the most about my position as a Corporate Flight Attendant is having the tools and flexibility to deliver a truly remarkable experience for my clients.
I started my career in Commercial Aviation and worked my way through four airlines before making the full-time transition to Business Aviation. At the airlines, everything I did was completely standardized and there was little-to-no room to go the extra mile to deliver that remarkable experience. In Business Aviation, I work with budgets (and depending on the client, sometimes there is no budget!) and have room to use my creative thinking to transform the cabin into an oasis of luxury and comfort. This kind of planning can take hours and sometimes goes into days and weeks, depending on how much notice I have prior to departure. I have to source the finest of items and have every little detail planned – all the way down to the placement of where a garnish will go on a boarding appetizer!
One of my favorite flying stories brings us to the other side of the world – Kiribati. Comprised of atolls, Kiribati is deep in the South Pacific and extremely remote. At the time, I was flying clients who wanted to explore the area and check that destination off their bucket list. We were on the ground for a few hours when I noticed a group of local children come out of the woods and line up against the fence of the airport to check out the excitement of a private jet. I was lucky to be flying with another Flight Attendant on this trip and we brought the children cans of soda and packages of gummy bears. It was an eye-opening experience because they went absolutely wild over the most basic items that you and I typically pay no attention to on a daily basis.
What are some of the barriers you’ve had to tackle being a minority gender in this field? Have you had any interesting interactions with clients or colleagues (that are particular in respect to being a male in a predominately female dominated industry)?
As a male in this industry, I’ve had to jump over many hurdles to prove that I am just as capable as my talented female colleagues. I’ve had pilots tell me that I am one of the best Corporate Flight Attendants they’ve ever flown with, but the only problem is that I don’t have the proper “parts”. I’ve had trips given to female colleagues because the client did not want a male serving them in the cabin.
Another barrier that I face very often is the assumption that I’m a pilot. There’s plenty of ground staff that know me after so many years and don’t make that mistake anymore, but the ones that don’t know me always assume I’m a pilot as soon as I walk into an FBO or open the cabin door after a flight. I would say 9 times out of 10, the fueler comes to the aircraft and asks me how much fuel we need to take. When the catering is brought to the aircraft, I’ve been asked where the Flight Attendant is so they can hand it off to her. I do want to mention that I am not the only one who deals with this – female pilots are often walked by because of the assumption that they’re Flight Attendants.
One more barrier that I’ve dealt with – and this one makes me chuckle – is when I introduce myself to the pilots and they start addressing me as if I were the client. When I was contracting, it was normal to get calls for ASAP trips (sometimes as little as 45 minutes to get to the airport). The pilots would be so focused on flight planning that they wouldn’t notice they were flying with a male Flight Attendant. This has only happened a handful of times, but it always ended with a lot of laughter!
I always make a point to smile and let others know that I’m the Flight Attendant when they wrongly assume that I’m a pilot or client. In my Airline days, I once called a woman “Sir” because of my own assumption. I felt incredibly ashamed and embarrassed, so I understand what it’s like to be put on the spot in that situation.
I 100% can see that being a male CFA can be a unique advantage in such a female dominated industry, do you see it that way and why?
It absolutely can be a unique advantage in such a female-dominated industry. There is a pretty sizeable demand for male Corporate Flight Attendants – you just have to look really deep within our industry. I’ve flown with a plethora of accounts that prefer having males working in the cabin. Sometimes it’s for religious reasons, other times it is the client preference. There’s also plenty of companies out there that pay no mind to whether they have males or females working in the cabin – they just want hardworking professionals working on their aircraft!
What is your biggest piece of advice for male flight attendants who are looking to break into the industry themselves?
If you’re a male Flight Attendant looking to break into Business Aviation, my biggest piece of advice to you is to not give up. Never settle for anything less than what you want and deserve. I could not sound more cliché if I tried, but it’s the honest truth! This is what I was told by industry professionals for years, and now I have an established career with a top-notch company in Business Aviation. This is not something that happens overnight – patience and networking are two of the many keys to success as a male looking to break into the industry. Rejection happens to both men and women in our industry. For each position that is posted, hundreds (and into the thousands) apply. Set yourself up for success by ensuring you have the proper safety and culinary training, join organizations like the NBAA, attend networking events, and hand your business card out to every person you meet. I gave my business card to an aviation cleaning company representative at a networking event and two months later I received a call from an operator looking to use me as a contractor because the information on my business card was relayed to them from that representative at the cleaning company.Be sure to keep up with Joseph on LinkedIn and Instagram!