Elsie Business Award, Julie Mailhot

Favourite career stories shared by the 2018 Elsie Award recipients
September 11, 2018
Written by Wings Staff
Business Award
Julie Mailhot, chief operating officer, Air Georgian
Mailhot started with Air Canada in 1987 as a Customer Service Agent and has progressed up the organizational ladder. She was the company’s first female flight dispatcher and eventually became the division’s chief of operations, managing a group of 80 flight dispatchers.

Mailhot currently serves as chief operating officer at Air Canada Express/Air Georgian.  She has served many other organizations in various positions and received the Art of Excellence Award from Air Canada. She is also president of the Dreams Take Flight Toronto Chapter and has been involved with the charity for the last 21 years.

Return to list of 2018 Elsie Award winners for more personal stories

Favourite moments on my journey, by Julie Mailhot: My career in aviation began in 1987, working in reservations and later at the Dorval airport. In the early 90s, while working in the Weight and Balance department, I had the opportunity to chat with flight dispatchers quite regularly and became interested in dispatching. In 1994, I heard of an opening in the Flight Dispatch Department in Toronto and immediately inquired about qualifications for the position. I was quickly dissuaded, being told there were no women in this position, and that I would need to become a pilot.

Determined, I took a private pilot course and immersed myself with books and other materials to study meteorology on my own time. In 1995, my dedication paid off, and I was hired as the first woman assistant flight dispatcher at Air Canada. While this was a great accomplishment, still others did not recognize my value – often having me file papers and do other clerical work rather than assisting in dispatching.

In 1996, I was able to obtain my licence after successfully passing the Transport Canada operations and meteorology exams. For about six months after becoming a licensed flight dispatcher, every time a pilot would call for a briefing or to ask a question they would ask to speak to the real flight dispatcher, or would request a supervisor, as they did not trust what I would tell them.

Later, I went on to become the first woman chief duty dispatcher, then chief of operations, and ended up being the director of the entire department which included Flight Dispatch, Aeronautical Support, and Weight and Balance. Today, I am proud to hold the position of chief operating officer at Air Georgian, overseeing all aspects of our operations, and helping to prepare Air Georgian for future growth opportunities.

There has been a lot of awareness recently about the lack of women in aviation, whether it be in pilot or flight dispatcher positions, in maintenance, or management. Looking back at my journey, and the struggles I faced progressing in aviation, this is not surprising. However, the industry has progressed, and due to the dedication and commitment of fellow female leaders in aviation, we are creating greater awareness and opportunities for women in our industry.

The negativity and discrimination I faced was fuel for the fire, motivating me to push for change in a field I am passionate about. I am so proud today to be able to speak about my journey, and hopefully inspire other young women to pursue their passions regardless of any negativity they face. Girls can fly!

Return to list of Elsie Award winners for more personal stories

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