Women, United — SFO's Joanne Borg - United Hub

SFO's Joanne Borg

By Matt Adams, March 02, 2018

The year was 1986, and Engine Overhaul and Repair Senior Manager Joanne Borg, then a newly licensed aircraft maintenance technician (AMT), was reporting for her first day at the San Francisco Line Maintenance hangar. It was an era when the sight of a woman out on the line was a conspicuous one, but Joanne didn't think much of it as she headed into the locker room to get ready for her shift. Then something stopped her cold in her tracks.

"It was eerie," Joanne said. "There were probably 100 guys on my crew, but I was the only woman. Being in that locker room by myself was just so quiet and so lonely."

While pursuing her Airframe and Powerplant license, there had been subtle things that separated Joanne from the men, but none as poignant as that empty locker room. The feeling of isolation was hard to shake.

Joanne had gotten her start with United as a seamstress in the San Francisco Maintenance Base upholstery shop in 1976, where she would watch the mechanics who worked alongside her on the shop floor and think to herself that she'd like to try what they were doing. In 1984, she decided to make a move. For the next two years, Joanne worked swing shift as a cabin mechanic and took aircraft maintenance classes in the daytime, all while she and her husband raised two young kids. Earning her license meant better pay and a good future, but it also meant having to grow thick skin.

"I never really had a problem with the guys when I became a mechanic," she said, "But some of the supervisors would give the women the hardest jobs. I think they were trying find our breaking point. My husband is the one who told me, 'Don't let them break you.' He kept me going when it got tough."

From what Joanne can remember, the ratio of women to men in Tech Ops when she started was around 1 to 70. For the most part everyone got along well, but there were times when the ribbing the women received from some of their male colleagues took its toll. In those moments, the female employees banded together to look out for one another.

"We had a rule that said there's no crying in front of the guys," said Joanne. "When the men gave us a hard time, we would give each other a look that said, 'Don't let them see you cry.' You'd go off by yourself and let it out, then get back to work."

In the years since, Joanne said things have gotten "a hundred times better," and she gives all the credit to current Tech Ops leadership for helping usher in that change.

"At one point, I had given up on ever being promoted," she said. "I saw the writing on the wall – there were people who didn't have much respect for women in this job. With the leaders we have now, I'm able to show what I can do. I feel respected, and I have so much respect for them because of it."

There are now concerted efforts to attract more women to Tech Ops, and steps are being taken to address pay gaps between women and men in the industry. Joanne hopes that her accomplishments – like becoming the first female Operating Manager of Engine Overhaul at United – helped contribute to that sea change, and she hopes that when people see her it reframes their perceptions of what an AMT looks like.

"There are a lot of women technicians out there, maybe twice as many as when I started," said Joanne. "You'll find females on every shift. If you can do the job, it shouldn't matter. I've put my whole heart into what I do, and I tell other women that if this is their dream, stick with it. Sometimes the road is bumpy, but if you really want to do it, you can."

United Cargo operates more than 11,000 cargo-only flights in one year

By The Hub team, March 19, 2021

On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.

10 tips for spring travel

By The Hub team, February 24, 2021

Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more

Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.

Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.

United joins UNICEF COVAX initiative

By The Hub team, February 19, 2021

This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.

"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.

We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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