Sherrexcia “Rexy” Rolle’s parents own Western Air Limited, but her life plans did not include resting on their accomplishments. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be involved. Today, Rolle is vice president of operations and general counsel at one of the largest privately-owned airlines in the world.
Rolle has made international waves in the aviation industry considered to be a male-dominated field and in which gender equality is a huge challenge.
The aviation and corporate attorney manages Western Air Limited’s legal and regulatory affairs, and in her operations capacity is responsible for overseeing day-to-day flight operations.
She commands a staff complement of approximately 190 and a fleet of 16 aircraft in the airline’s portfolio.
Rolle is a big deal.
She also spearheaded the expansion of the commercial airline with their acquisition of Embraer 145 Jet aircraft, additional Saab 340s and significant growth of its routes’ market share.
As International Women’s Day (IWD), which is marked globally today, celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women as well as marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity, for Rolle, the day represents unity and the idea that women are stronger together than apart.
“We celebrate women in the country and across the globe for their accomplishments and impact on society,” said Rolle.
“The airline industry is still considered to be a male-dominated field, but there are a number of women in different sectors of aviation who are demonstrating that women are just as qualified and competent in this field. Whether they are pilots, dispatchers, executives, operational managers, flight attendants, maintenance professionals … the list goes on. So, it’s not meant to disregard the quality work of men, but it’s simply acknowledging the great contribution made by women every day.”
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), improving gender diversity throughout the industry is needed not just because it is the “right thing to do” but it also makes business sense.
IATA in 2019 launched the 25by2025 Campaign – an airline industry initiative to advance gender diversity in the airline industry by 2025.
The 25by2025 Campaign is a voluntary commitment by participating IATA member airlines. Key among the commitments of airlines participating in the campaign are increasing the number of women in senior positions, and increasing the number of women in under-represented jobs.
According to IATA, there is currently no comprehensive airline industry-wide gender diversity statistical report. But with women representing around five percent of the global pilot population and three percent of CEO’s, the gender imbalance in the industry, the organization declares, is clear.
In 2018, only 18 airlines had women in the role of CEO, president or managing director.
The daughter of Captain Rex Rolle and Shandrice Woodside-Rolle, who established the family-owned Western Air Limited in September 2000, Rolle is now leading the airline through probably one of its most challenging periods – a pandemic, and working to lessen the fallout.
“[The year] 2020 was challenging for the airline industry, but for us, it was important that we continued to press forward, create new procedures and policies to keep our passengers and crew safe, adjusted our schedule to account for fluctuating volumes and continue to provide consistent air travel options throughout the destinations that we fly. I thank God we have been able to do that and we will continue. We look forward to a further uptick in travel in the coming months and we also hope for rapid tests to be accepted domestically, which will greatly help the public in domestic travel.”
IWD is recognized today to help forge a gender-equal world, celebrating women’s achievements and increasing visibility, while calling out inequality.
Rolle’s advice to females during this day and International Women’s Month is that women have the God-given ability to nurture the world and change it.
“We should embrace our differences and encourage other women on their journey whether we fully understand it or not. To me, women’s equality is about the freedom to exercise your authenticity, however that may look like, and it’s about being treated fairly in your home, school and workplace or where ever you may go.”
This year’s IWD theme is “Choose To Challenge”. Rolle encourages women to not be discouraged by comparison or feelings that they should look, act or be like the next woman.
“Allow yourself the grace to grow into the purpose God has for you. And when you celebrate others, you will quickly have reasons to celebrate yourself. So, I challenge us all to enjoy and embrace who we are inside and out and know that no one makes a better you.”
IWD has been celebrated for over a century. Rolle said the day serves as a good reminder for women to continue to push for the kindness, respect, compensation and freedom that they deserve.
International Women’s Day held its first gathering in 1911.
Purple, green and white are the colors of IWD. Purple signifies justice and dignity. Green symbolizes hope. White represents purity, albeit a controversial concept. The colors originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the United Kingdom in 1908.