APEX executive director Katie Goshgarian leads by example

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Though she didn’t know it at the time, the fact that APEX executive director Katie Goshgarian considered her first flight on an airplane to be just as memorable as the trip to Disneyworld for which she flew it spoke volumes about her future career trajectory.

“I had no idea [then] that I would be as integrated into the industry as I am today, [but] the truth is my love for travel has only grown since working with APEX,” says Goshgarian. “When I travel now however, I am more in tuned and appreciative of all the thought and work that went into improving my inflight experience – from having WiFi, to various inflight entertainment (IFE) systems and content offerings, to power sources at my seat, the food and beverages, and the inflight service teams.”

APEX, otherwise known as the Airline Passenger Experience Association, is a non-profit organization which is committed to providing a world-class #PaxEx to travelers everywhere.

Supervising the operations of the association’s global staff – which include APEX offices in Beijing, Atlanta, Chicago and New York – on a daily basis, Goshgarian also leads partnership deals, manages finances, and approves communications and messaging. But Goshgarian says her biggest responsibility is to “help advance and execute the strategy and initiatives set by the APEX Board of Directors.” A key component of this effort seems to be a continuing emphasis on diversity, both in front of and behind the scenes at APEX.

But although there has been a noticeable uptick in diversity in the attendees, membership committees, and speakers at APEX events over the past couple of years, the fact that the recent APEX EXPO in Long Beach was low on panel discussions spearheaded by women shows that there is still work to be done in this regard. But according to Goshgarian, change is definitely afoot.

“As a global association, APEX not only represents all aspects of the aviation industry, but also [aims] to improve the experience for every passenger around the globe,” she says. “We therefore understand how important it is to have as many different and diverse voices as part of the conversation. I don’t know if you are aware, but APEX’s staff team is actually very female dominant. In addition to myself, APEX’s director of programs & services, director of marketing & communications, director of APEX Media, meetings manager, sales manager, programs & services manager, marketing & communications manager, member services coordinator, Asia project coordinator, and APEX Media’s managing editor and digital editor are all women!”

“With every APEX event we invite speakers who are at the forefront of the industry and changing the landscape. We have and continue to consciously take steps to include more women and people of color on our agendas, and are always happy when we can welcome new committee and board members who bring a fresh industry perspective.”

And though Goshgarian says that she hasn’t personally been “mansplained” to or experienced any of the casual sexism that so often goes hand in hand with a career in male-dominated professions like aviation, society’s expectations have been something else entirely.

“I have been fortunate in my role at APEX to have not encountered very blatant sexism. That said, managing societal expectations of being a working mother who travels and is away from her family for sometimes a week at a time, has been more of a challenge,” says Goshgarian, who is a married mother of two young children.

“Despite the changing times, there still seems to be an undercurrent of what a ‘modern woman’s role should be and on many business trips I’m asked: ‘Who’s watching your children?’ My reply is always: ‘Their father.’ But my husband and male colleagues are not asked that question.”

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Trying to remain zen about it all, Goshgarian says Oprah’s rousing speech at the Golden Globes last month simply reinforced her philosophy that the best way to generate real, lasting change in our ever-evolving world is to lead by example.

“Speaking of Oprah, she often talks about finding your passion. Over the last 17 years I have realized that my appreciation for my job (as opposed to say, my title) is what has had the most impact on the passion I have for my job. My goal is to work hard while making the environment I work in a positive one,” explains Goshgarian.

“Once I stopped focusing on the ‘what’ of my job, and focused on the ‘how’ it changed how I look at my job [entirely]. And as a mom, I expose my daughter and son to as many avenues as possible – Lego leagues, science fairs, scouting, etc. – to show them that any passion (or career) is possible regardless of your gender.”

Photo at top credited to Lauren Costello 

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