Jayne Hrdlicka

Group CEO, Jetstar


When Jayne Hrdlicka told her young sons she had a new job running an airline they got a bit worried. How can you be the boss of an airline when you can't fly a plane?" they asked. 

A native of the US midwest, Hrdlicka was raised in a successful immigrant family which stressed the importance of hard work. Her father had defected from the Czech Republic and believed strongly in the right to choose and be your best.

After a career in management consulting and business in the US, Hrdlicka moved here in 1994 to run a company (Dynamic Marketing), against the advice of her parents. "You get an itch to reorient your perspective . . . I always said I'd stay [in Australia] five or six years."

Having already worked with Bain in America, Hrdlicka joined the firm here and spent 11 years as a partner. "Consulting is a great way to have a family and after I went back to Bain, two kids, two dogs and an Australian husband later . . . I thought about going back to the US but couldn't work out where I would go. Lifestyle and family balance also came into it."

During her years at Bain, Jayne Hrdlicka was instrumental in promoting women's leadership both within the firm and the business community. She helped to launch (with Chief Executive Women) an Australian version of a major research study on gender parity that Bain has conducted for some years.

Like many successful women, Hrdlicka went through a period of thinking it was best to keep your head down and not draw attention to yourself. But then she realised it was crucial to wave the flag on women's progress or risk leaving little unchanged for women in the future.

Although the gender mix is changing in many companies, it will never feel enough until there is more visibility, she says.

"Qantas domestic and international has 50 per cent [women in top roles], with Jetstar and Frequent Flyer CEOs. So from that perspective we are in good shape. But we have got a big job in Jetstar. Our business doesn't have good balance in the executive team but great women through the business. We have to create the opportunities."

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