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Gender diversity in the aviation industry: Latest studies identify areas of focus for 2020 and beyond

3 January 2020

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 revealed that gender parity will not be attained for 99.5 years – a reminder that true gender equality is a marathon, not a sprint.

One of the areas where policy-makers need to focus greater attention is in relation to securing greater political representation for women: “…without representing one-half of the population in national and local politics, progress will be stymied in other areas pertinent to women and the quest for gender parity” .

A global study on gender diversity in the aviation and aerospace industry was published last week by International Aviation Womens [sic] Association (IAWA) , known as the Soaring Through the Glass Ceiling Report. Seven organisations joined forces to address a widely held view that aviation and aerospace lag behind other parts of the economy when it comes to the advancement of women. When we consider jobs, for example, the study identified that only 6% of commercial pilots, 26% air traffic controllers, 18% flight dispatchers and 9% of aerospace engineers are women.

The global study conducted identified five primary inhibitors to obtaining greater representation of women in the aviation industry:

  1. Lack of opportunity for advancement or upward mobility
  2. Lack of female executives or board members, meaning there are a lack of female leaders as role models
  3. Systemic policies and practices that close off potential career paths
  4. Organisations that do not prioritise or promote diversity
  5. Challenges associated with biases e.g. enduring stereotypes that men “take charge” and women “take care”. Reducing bias is an important step towards mitigating this persistent challenge.

Shared characteristics of those organisations that have made the most progress are:

  • Public recognition of female role models
  • Ensuring senior leadership’s commitment to D&I
  • Setting of expectations with individual contributors and management
  • Ensuring that more women have a seat at the table
  • Investing in more inclusive talent management and succession processes

The report provides practical tips as to how businesses can promote these positive drivers. The report concludes that D&I is ethically essential and that the “future and prosperity of the [aviation] industry depend on it”.

In addition, IATA’s recently launched 25by2025 campaign already has 59 participating airlines. They are making a voluntary commitment to:

  • increase the number of women in senior positions (to be defined by member airlines) either against currently reported metrics or to a minimum representation of 25% by 2025
  • increase the number of women in under-represented jobs e.g. pilots and operations by either 25% against currently reported metrics or to a minimum representation of 25% by 2025
  • report annually on key diversity metrics.

IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, emphasised the importance of this initiative: “Our passengers come from all walks of life, represent different cultures and genders and yet, the industry itself does not represent the diverse world we live in today. We know this needs to change “.

Diversity in HFW’s Aerospace practice

Like the aviation industry, the legal profession has much progress to make with regards to gender equality and broader D&I. Our Aerospace practice is actively taking steps to address these issues, embodied in our mission statement:

“Our mission is to reflect the diverse community that we serve around the world, to create a working environment where every team member feels they can thrive, and to inspire future generations of talent around the globe to join our team.

Embracing diversity is a commitment to our people and clients – our well-being depends on it. It helps our teams to gain personal satisfaction and to find unique solutions to our clients’ problems wherever they are based in the world.

We recognise the importance of diverse representation and believe true diversity requires ongoing commitment, always with the aim to do better and be better. We recognise, too, that gender, specifically, is an issue that has been central to the diversity discussion in the legal field, and which continues to affect each and every one of us in different ways.

We are proud of our diversity. As a team we are actively focusing on where we must improve, engaging in shifting methodologies to achieve the change we want. Our commitment is underpinned by our collaborative approach, which sets us apart from our competitors and will ensure that we can succeed in turning our vision into reality”.

HFW’s commitment includes initiatives around gender equality and has set a global target of attaining 30% female representation at partner level by 2020. Mental health and well-being, ethnicity, social mobility, and sexual orientation/gender identity are the firm’s other D&I priorities.

To read more about our D&I strategy, please click here or contact the author, Kate Seaton. As well as being an Aerospace partner, Kate is the firm’s D&I Partner for Aerospace globally and is also one of our Singapore office’s D&I Partners.

Kate Seaton
+65 6411 5317
+65 8333 4102