As usual, I conducted my due diligence research on Transaero and Pleshakova before the recently scheduled interview in Moscow. Naturally, I had formed a picture in my own head as to what Pleshakova would look like and how the interview would go down. I expected an old, stern Russian woman dressed in a dark grey suit to storm into the office with bodyguards armed with automatic weapons. I expected her not to smile nor show any inkling of a personality while she allows me to ask two questions, no more, which she pre-selected. Wrong I was. Pleshakova is a lovely, sophisticated woman who warmly greeted me and welcomed me into her office where she was open and willing to discuss all of my questions.
Yes, you read correctly. The General Director, or CEO, of the only privately-owned Russian airline company is a woman, and the first woman to earn the highest position in the Russian aviation industry of all time. Deservingly so. Pleshakova earned a Ph.D. in engineering from the Moscow Aviation Institute, and has climbed the ladder within Transaero since 1992, up to her current position as CEO which she attained in 2001.
"There was never a single instance when I had to prove myself," Pleshakova answers when I asked of her rise to this top executive position in a male-dominated industry. Questions of acceptance and equality often arise for Pleshakova, yet she reminds me, "This professional level does not depend on whether you are a man or a woman." She confidently admits, "I never had to apply special efforts to prove my competency."
I asked Pleshakova what social changes she has noticed in Moscow in the recent decade compared to Soviet times. "Moscow is a modern city," she illustrates, "and Russians are more active. The youth all know English and the state of mind and attitudes have changed, in general, for the better." She describes how Russian citizens now have "a more open and friendly approach towards foreigners."
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