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Empowered and beautiful: In conversation with a senior HK cabin crew

Many organizations, including LocalHood, are celebrating the month of March as the International Women’s Month; promoting and accelerating Equality & Empowerment amongst women.

Women empowerment and Women’s rights movement began somewhere around 1848, around 1960 the second wave including sexual revolution and the role of women in society emerged. In recent years, Women's empowerment and promotion of women's rights have emerged as a part of a major global movement and is continuing to break new grounds and is a game changer.

Women’s Empowerment happens in all walks of life, be it in the form of a successful start-up or entrepreneur, a multi-billion-dollar businesswomen and not forgetting one of the toughest jobs on this planet, being a mom, wife and last but not the least home maker of a family! Women show how they run not only a household, but the society and not forgetting the world.

Talking about professional life, the career of a flight attendant is often perceived as glamourous and easy. The reality though is quite the opposite. Being a flight attendant, especially for a female, could mean having to dealing with the good and the bad from anxious or rude passengers, odd hours of work, growing regulatory pressures that the cabin crew has to deal with and last but not the least ageism. The WHO defines Ageism as "...stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age." The job also comes with some very interesting perks for sure.

Pic source: Stock photo

LocalHood volunteer Saravanan got a chance to have a brief chat with a Senior Cabin crew, Judi Puentespina to know how her work as a cabin crew has evolved over the years.

Judi shares how her role started off working for the airline as a Cabin Crew, the changes she has seen within the industry which in turn changed for the better for all the women joining the airline industry after her, to how diverse her role has become, from a Cabin Crew to a mother onwards to being a trainer and a volunteer empowering other women living in Hong Kong, a great way to pay it forward.

Judi joined the airline industry and moved to Hong Kong in the year 1985, just over 38 years ago. Having freshly graduated from university, it wasn’t in her wildest dream to join this industry. “All I wanted was to continue studying my Master's Degree, get married by the age of 27 and start a family. But the head of PE (Physical Education) in my university pulled me out to attend the interview and the rest was history...” she adds.

Judi has had the opportunity to experience firsthand how the airline industry has grown in leaps and bounds and so has the rights of women who work in it. In the 1980s the retirement age for a female cabin crew was 40, whereas the retirement age of a male cabin crew was 55. Talk about biases!! After countless battles and policy adjustments, the retirement policy was revisited in 1997, to which women will retire at the age of 45 and revisited once again in 2008, where there was a unanimous agreement that everyone should retire at the age of 55 regardless of their sex. Phewww....Finally!!

This has shown how women can change their rights to be treated equally in an industry where they contribute on a major scale and is an important part of a country’s economy.

Pic source: Stock photo. Judi's photo not shown for privacy reasons.

Being a cabin crew has allowed Judi to not only travel the word and see place, it has allowed her the flexibility to be a mother of 4 wonderful children, balance her work and life so that she can contribute to her family and yet still be able to have time to attend the parent teacher meetings and school functions, take up a new calling when she got the role of a cabin crew trainer in the year 1996 and not forgetting the chance to go back to school again and pursue her Master’s Degree. “The career I have as a cabin crew, not only has it been fulfilling by allowing me to travel and see the world, it has given me more opportunity to learn and acquire new skills in communication, interaction, working well with people from a variety of culture and background and pushing me further to always learn something new in life” Judi adds with enthusiasm.

Pic source: Stock photo

Whenever possible, Judi does take the opportunity to volunteer and work alongside EnrichHK, an NGO based in Hong Kong empowering the foreign domestic workers which are mostly female. “Most domestic workers come to Hong Kong in order to support immediate and extended family they leave behind, be it back in the Philippines or Indonesia! I work with EnrichHK to educate them about financial empowerment to allow them plan their future, be self reliant and independent both financially and emotionally and not be taken advantage by their family and friends” says Judi.

When asked about what she has to say for the younger generation of women out there who are reading this article, Judy replied “As long as you know your value, because no one else will give that to you, and you will learn how to navigate through life and be a great woman no matter what you do”

Having had the chance to interview Judi, who has been in the industry just under four decades and seen the changes and benefits women has gotten from the empowerment they have fought for, I can clearly say that every single woman is a fighter and a successful woman on her own!


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