In honor of International Women’s Day, Delta News Hub spoke with HR leaders Joanne Smith and Stephanie Asbury about progress, balance and growing careers.
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  • Gender balance continues to grow, as Delta has doubled the number of women Senior Vice Presidents over the past two years.
  • Delta has been recognized as a "Best Workplace for Women" by Great Place To Work and Fortune three years in a row.

Today is International Women’s Day – a historic date that has connected the world for over a century, championing women’s rights to work, vote, and achieve equality since the early 1900s.

Our progress proves that parity is possible. Gender balance continues to grow at Delta, as women represent 41% of employees. Over the past two years, Delta has doubled the number of women Senior Vice Presidents and currently has 25 women in officer positions. Still, we work to close these gaps by creating a fairer path forward, as expert data suggests the biggest obstacles to women entering leadership exist much earlier in the pipeline.

In honor of the day, we sat down with two women paving the way for gender equity at Delta: Joanne Smith, Delta’s Chief People Officer and Stephanie Asbury, Senior Vice President – Global Talent. Read their thoughts on achieving balance, growing careers and Delta’s work to reflect the world at every level.

Achieving progress

Joanne Smith

“Our efforts to seek diversity and promote inclusion are a marathon, not a sprint. We are extremely focused on the health of our pipeline, whether that’s through adopting more inclusive hiring practices to manage out unconscious bias or developing unique programs that introduce women to aviation earlier in life,” Smith said.

Delta creates opportunities through programs like the Propel Pilot Career Path Program and investing in nearly 50 training programs for Aviation Maintenance Technicians. Read more here about our work to address underrepresented areas of Delta, most recently illustrated by new partnerships with Girls Who Code and Society of Women Engineers.

“We want to find the best talent who delivers the best results. In areas of the business that are historically less diverse than others, it takes intentionality to remove barriers and ensure the most qualified candidates have an equal chance to let their skill and talent speak for itself,” said Asbury.

Smith added: “We have to look at our long-term strategy. We know that what gets measured gets done." 

Delta's senior-level Diversity & Inclusion Council helps keep the business accountable for embedding diversity goals throughout the organization by quarterly evaluations of metrics, programs and proposals. Equally important, the Council tracks and reports on our work to improve racial diversity.

Balancing families

Asbury is responsible for leadership development, talent planning, acquisition and HR business partners for Delta’s 90,000 employees.

Stephanie Asbury

Asked about working and having a family, she said: “I became a better leader when I became a mom. I learned how to better prioritize, organize and multitask. It taught me how to lift up and recognize what’s important. I learned to be more planned so I could always be present: when I’m at work I’m ‘all in’ in whatever I’m doing, and when I’m at home I’m ‘all in’ with my kids. The busier I got the better I got. It forced me to close out of my work before I left and do the same at home.”

Smith said, “You can do both: be a leader and have a family, too. We are at a tipping point in history right now. In ten years, the faces of our business will be much more diverse." Throughout a 30-year career in the travel industry, Smith has shattered ceilings and received numerous awards, including 25 Power Women to Watch in Atlanta and Wall Street Journal’s Top Women to Watch.

“Not only is Delta putting strategic programs in place, but our kids were raised in a generation with working mothers,” Smith continued. “Now, it’s about shared responsibilities and balanced families. I think that’s when it really does change.”

Building advocates and growing careers

Asked for career advice, Asbury said: “Connect everything you do to the business strategy. Lead by example: don’t ever ask something of someone else that you wouldn’t do yourself. Focus on changes you can make, not factors outside of your control. Be curious and learn as much as you can about your industry. Build relationships with purpose before you need something. Relationships with the team you have the privilege to lead, peers and frontline employees are just as important as the relationships you build upward. That’s where the real learning happens.”

Smith added: “At times, advocacy matters even more than mentorship. It’s about finding someone to speak up for you when you’re not in the room. They’ll be able to make you known and talk about your great achievements.” 

The theme of International Women’s Day in 2020 is #EachForEqual, as collective action and shared responsibility are key to a gender equal world. Delta will create more opportunities for men to join the advocacy conversation by providing workshops that give them tools and techniques to be stronger champions of women.

“When others are able to tell your story, you can achieve even more success than when you tell it on your own,” Asbury said.

As a “Best Workplace for Diversity,” Delta has been recognized as a "Best Workplace for Women" by Great Place To Work® and Fortune for three years in a row, “Top-Rated Workplaces for Veterans" by Indeed, and “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion.”