Have you ever flown in a plane with an all-female crew? I know your answer: no – unless you flew from Addis Ababa to Bangkok with Ethiopian Airlines a couple of weeks ago. This was the first time in the history of aviation that a flight has been operated by women only, including cockpit, cabin crew, maintenance crew, and air traffic controllers. Wouoh!
This made me curious about Ethiopian women, so I searched for some basic data:
- Primary education completion rates (% of relevant age group): 42% of Ethiopian girls complete primary education – compared to 65.9% across Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Seats held by women in the national parliaments: 28 % compared with 23% in SSA.
I found the contrast interesting: While a lower proportion of Ethiopian girls than from other SSA countries complete primary education, more Ethiopian women participate in high-level national politics. And this made me curious about the country’s culture.
I went to The Hofstede Center website, and looked at Ethiopia’s cultural traits. I wanted to know how the country scores in masculinity: On a 1-100 scale, Ethiopia scores 65 – which is a relatively high score.
In Hofstede’s parlance, the interpretation of the masculinity cultural dimension is that societies that score highly (masculine societies) are “driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner / best in field.” In contrast, in those scoring low (feminine societies) “the dominant values are caring for others and quality of life. A feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable.”
It seems to me that a flight operated by women only stands out from the crowd. While unusual, I don’t think this is either good or bad per se. If you know me, you will know that I’m not a feminist. Rather, I’m a humanist. Precisely because of this, I support whatever enhances authentic human progress. And I think that providing opportunities for anyone – female or male – to develop our capabilities and serve our societies while enjoying what we do is a sign of a healthy society. So Ethiopia has risen on my personal scoreboard.
What are your views on this?
Btw, I want to thank my colleague and friend Giovanni for bringing to my attention the news about the Ethiopian Airlines flight. Thank you, Gio!