Cassani '82 Named Business Woman of the Year
Photo: Go Fly Unlimited
Cassani '82, CEO of Go Fly, Ltd.
Holyoke trustee Barbara A. Cassani '82, the CEO of Go Fly, Ltd.,
British Airways' no-frills subsidiary airlinewon the Veuve
Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year award April 24. This award,
which the April 17 Financial Times (London) described as "one
of the UK's top business accolades," comes on the heels of
the Wall Street Journal Europe naming Cassani in February one
of Europe's twenty-five most successful businesswomen, ranking
her as number six.
The MHC alumna faced
stiff competition for the award from fellow nominees Sly Bailey,
chief executive of IPC Media Group; Rachel Elnaugh, chairman of
Red Letter Days, which sells special experiences such as rafting
or gocarting; Chey Garland, chief executive of the Hartlepool-based
Garlands Call Centres; and Jo Malone, who founded a skin-care
and perfume group. Cassani, who, ironically, "has always
disliked being singled out for special mention on the grounds
of gender," according to the April 25 Financial Times (London),
was cited by the paper as "rapidly gain[ing] respect as one
of the very few female chief executives in an industry that is
seen as being notoriously male-dominated."
After graduating magna
cum laude from Mount Holyoke with a major in international relations,
her next stop was the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International
Affairs at Princeton University. Having completed her master's
degree in public affairs there, she joined the firm of Coopers
& Lybrand (now Pricewaterhouse Coopers) in Washington, D.C.,
as a consultant in its international division. She then moved
to the firm's offices in London. A British Airways newspaper advertisement
for a job in sales and marketing led Cassani to a new career path
and to swift ascension through the managerial ranks of the major
international airline company.
Cassani told the New
York Times that she "had no idea of what [she] was getting
into" when she embarked on her career with the airline. But
the turbulent industry seemed to inspire her greatest talents.
She turned around a small European airline bought by British Airways
in 1992 and was soon pegged for Go Fly. Unhindered by competition
and threats from rival low-cost airlines, Go Fly, under Cassani's
direction, now has a
staff of nine hundred and serves twenty-three European cities,
from Copenhagen to Lisbon. Cassani will be on campus this spring
for her twentieth reunion.