2017 Honoree

Jessica Sundquist

Captain, Boeing 787, Norwegian Airlines

“…and today I think the biggest step is that you can still have the power and you can still take that space and you don’t have to put your femininity aside. You don’t have to be one of the boys to take away his power…”

Did you feel that some of the quotes resonated with you or sort of jumped out at you more than others?

No, I mean they’re pretty much focusing on the same thing obviously I’m not sure if there was anyone that really stood out. But in general I feel that it’s more about the way we’re thinking you know? And I think there was one of the quotes that said to stop thinking like we’re not good enough, we have to open our minds from a woman’s point of view as well. It’s not just because men are setting limits for us; we have to also feel that we can take bigger steps and that we’re worth it cause we can.

Why is gender equality even a question today in people’s minds, and why are we constantly challenged with having to sort of justify and enlighten the Western world in understanding gender equality is not something that should be a major concern for us. Do you have an opinion on that?

Yeah, I absolutely agree. We should have gone further. But I think we are still moving and going the same direction. And I think the focus a little bit has changed because it’s focusing on history—the question—and looking back a few decades you can see that to be able to be a woman and to fit in in masculine environments anywhere, you kind of had to become a man. You see what I mean? Like you have to put your femininity aside to be able to take the power or whatever. And today I think the biggest step is that you can still have the power and you can still take that space and you don’t have to put your femininity aside. You don’t have to be one of the boys to take away his power. And I think that struggling is the biggest, next step to date for the Western world. Because we’ve come quite a bit, and this is the next step because to become one of the boys, to take their space, I mean it’s kind of like we are looking down on ourselves. As long as you’re de-feminine, you’ve earned the space. And that’s something that needs to be changed. And the reason, I think a little bit, is that it’s a threat because men have all this power…it’s there’s more powerful people: men, women, black, white—whoever they are—it’s a threat to keep their space.

There’s a lot of difference between other people but gender shouldn’t be one of them. Some have better social skills or some have been economical skills but that has nothing to do with gender. And I think that’s the problem today, that it’s valued too much what gender you have or what color you have or what background you have.

Right, and do you feel the reason that is so poignant is because women give up so easily? Like we sort of try to just keep the peace. And I vouch for the fact that my husband and male colleagues said “fine I’ll just do it myself, I’m not going to argue if it makes sense.” Do you feel that’s something we tend to do as females, like an instinct to just turn around and take care of the problem?

Yeah. I think that maybe women are more—but now we’re generalizing—like caretakers so instead of putting up a fight or whatever we just get it done so there’s no conflict as long as you’re getting things done.

Should we let the perfect get in the way of grievances at home and the possible? And it sort of takes you into the question of all women worldwide: we only have 24 hours in the day, how do we highlight and publicize the issues that we need to so there isn’t an injustice to women? And this is globally and not just in our personal surroundings and home. What do you think we could do to change those opinions?

Yeah, I mean, I think that if we start in the area that’s close to you—you pick the fight that’s close to you—and we can get more people in your local environment that will spread. It’s like rain from the water. And I think more women leaders in multinational companies will all aspire and that will change the point of view on equality and gender problems all over the world. It’s going to take a long time but hopefully that’s something everyone can do and then it requires a lot of investment and education so women can go to school everywhere. That’s another way to approach it. But I still think for everyone, if we all can do something, it will spread.

Why do employers get to ask what your previous job is and don’t talk about the job with a female in front of them and the salary and making it equal? So how do you feel you can sort of overcome this and change the premise in that we’ve got to stop dividing the salary and gender that gender is allowed to replace?

In my job and in my industry, it’s not a big problem actually. I have the same salary as a male colleague who has the same experience. It’s very black and white, for a pilot anyway from how many hours and what rank you have on board and how many years you’ve been with the company. And that of course differs from company to company. If you have the same job, you’ll have the same pay. I understand the question and I understand the problem but for me that’s not a problem.

You’re fortunate enough to not have that problem and that’s amazing but in a lot of industries women feel that they…cause obviously women, like you say, are nurturers in the male and female sex. They’ll turn around and bear the children and take care of all those added responsibilities. Males have–I’m not going to say all males under the same umbrella because I think there is a lot to be said of the European environment where men and fathers will turn around and take huge responsibility and even be home dads in some respect. But I do think in the Western society they do sort of hold that stigma that women should stay home. Hence the reason Trump is where he is today because there is a large cultural divide where people want to be macho men. And that’s gone, in the distance, but it hasn’t in so many ways. Would you feel that anything that can be said to sort of help people catch up? What could we do to help those people be more educated?

I mean, for me obviously I come from Europe. And I come from Sweden, which is equal. I mean, even in Sweden there’s a long way to go but these problems are getting better. And as you say there’s a big portion of the men that have actually taken paternity leave so it’s gotten a lot better. But what people are discussing now is that women lose a lot of the pension since they’re staying at home with the kids. Maybe not a stay-at-home mom for the whole kids growing up but when they’re small, so they’re losing a lot of pension. But even in Sweden, which is far ahead, I would say there are problems that need to be addressed. And hopefully this can spread and other countries can learn and we won’t get all these mistakes everywhere. And I think it comes back to this thing that people are feeling tricked. If there are more clever men or women on the market, then it’s a bigger stress and bigger competition.

Going onto question four, it’s an interesting question. It talks about surfing on the Internet related to sexual assaults and rape in colleges and campuses and also just generally how the Internet has allowed people to have so much access to content but it’s content that I don’t think has ever been of sound. Coming back to years where porn used to be in publications but now it’s so much more accessible online…in the last portion of that question, could there be any benefit to curbing our First Amendment or Constitutional rights to protect us from human rights? How do you feel about that: taking away for the benefit of the good? And is there ever taking away for the benefit of the good, because who has the right to do that?

I’ve lived in countries where the Internet is very restrictive and the governments choose which pages you can browse. So the question is where is the limit, what’s allowed and what’s not allowed? It’s a very difficult question, and it’s going to be very hard to do something like that. For me, it’s like putting a bandage on a broken leg. That’s not the problem. The problem is to educate people and to make people understand. Information today, especially for kids growing up today, it’s never-ending. If you stop something, it’s just going to show up somewhere else. So I think it’s much more important to invest in education and to get people to understand that yeah, just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean you’re allowed to do it or that it’s ok. We have to be critical of what we read and what we see every day and not just accept the information that’s being said into our minds every day. Porn is maybe not that obvious to everyone if you don’t look for it. But it’s still there, it’s still available. We have to teach kids what’s ok and what’s not ok and even that it’s available, if that’s ethically correct to consume. I think banning things is not the way to go. I think changing peoples’ views on it.

How do you feel about someone taking your right or your ability to see or be exposed to something and is taking that choice away from you? I mean, how do you feel about that?

I mean, I come from Sweden which is like America with free publicity or say whatever someone wants. And then going into another culture where it’s blocked and you can’t access whatever you want, with news channels being blocked, it’s strange. It’s weird. I don’t want to do that anywhere. I think it’s taking away the knowledge from people and being able to learn and educate themselves. It’s definitely not a good thing.

question five is an interesting question about how we can easily say in the West and I’m assuming a lot of international countries, the male-protected imbalance in representation of women—in this case, particularly the U.S.–we shouldn’t say just the U.S., I think it should globally where women are leaders making decisions on behalf of other women, not just health but academic states. Do you think there’s anything women can do to put aside their opinions and biases to be aware of these situations? Because how will women be able to hustle these people from power so women can make petitions to things that would affect their lives?

I mean, I think if we talk about how women could behave differently to change our position in society, I think we could be more empowering of each other. Whatever choice you make, if you choose to be a full-time mom or to go work at a big international company or whatever, we have to support each other. It’s a lot of judging each other and pulling each other down rather than helping each other. And as long as we keep doing that…that’s a big step. And that’s between women.

Have you felt it at all? In the U.S., I personally feel women have become more protective of each other just because of the election and the power of the macho male is taking a place that isn’t in the 21th century possible to accept. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that or have an opinion on that or a particular or more major role in society. Have you felt any kind of change where women have become more accepting of each other?

Yeah for sure. I think we are definitely going in the right direction. I mean, among my girlfriends we’ve become more supportive of each other and helping each other. It’s getting better. But that’s a large problem. That’s where it has to start—if we don’t push each other in those areas, then how can men do that? If we’re hurting ourselves, that’s the worst. In my profession, I travel a lot. I’ve been married for three years. So whenever we’re going to have kids, it’s obviously going to be a big challenge. But my husband, he’s a pilot as well. Like once a month I meet someone who asks “when you have kids, how are you going to work it out? Are you going to be home or fly once a month?” And he would never ever get the question. But for me, that’s the kind of question I get. It’s not like “oh how did you manage to get this position?” All I get is “how are you going to make it work?” And the thing is, women only ask that question. With male colleagues, they ask how work is. But female colleagues ask how it’s going to work. To be honest, I’m not sure how I’m going to make it work. That’s another….it’s just I compare it to my husband compared to me.

What is something someone may not know about you, like a habit or something? What would be the one thing you’d want people to know in your inner circle?

I’m not sure if it’s super crazy but when I go to hotels, because I travel a lot and spend a lot of time in hotels, what I do is I always bring slippers. That’s the most important thing in my bag. So put the slippers on and then very, very carefully look where the emergency exits are. I do that every time at a hotel, six days a week. That’s something no one would know, I guess. And then if I’m lucky I’ll get some licorice candy.

I always have sort of an emergency snack pack in my bag. So if it’s been a hard day at work or a long flight or something I get licorice, take a shower, have a face mask and watch a movie in slippers in the hotel.

If you could talk about a book that you could recommend or are currently reading that catches your mind or thought process for entertainment purposes or something you’re reading that you think people would take away from it, what would that book be?

One of my favorite books is about Barcelona and it’s about the church Santa Maria de Marks. It’s a fiction book. His name is Inbesonso Salenle. It’s about a young boy who carried the stone to build this church. It has a lot of Barcelona facts. It’s such a special place in my heart. And now I’m back. It’s such a great city.

If you could have been doing anything else in your life as a career path, what would that be?

Something more physical. Like something that uses your body more in a healthy way with food. I’m not sure but in that area anyway.

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