The Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter
Working towards a fair and balanced industry.
Data shows that, globally, the proportion of women in C-level roles in the aviation industry is 3%. Today, only 5% of commercial pilots around the world are female. And in the UK, women only constitute 15% of engineering and technology graduates. It’s clear that there remain barriers to women’s advancement in the industry, from as early as university and into their career. This is where the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter (WiAAC) comes in.
Founded in 2018 at the Farnborough Airshow, WiAAC brings UK’s aviation and aerospace sectors together to work towards gender equality in the industry. At the ATI Boeing Accelerator, we’re incredibly proud to work with our industry partners — Aerospace Technology Institute, Boeing, GKN Aerospace, and Rolls-Royce — who, as signatories of WiAAC, are committed to achieving gender balance at all levels in their organisations and across the industry as a whole.
Sumati Sharma, Co-Chair of WiAAC, and Vice President — Product & Commercial, Virgin Holidays, shares more about the mission of the charter, the importance of diversity and inclusion during these challenging times, and how we can all play a part in building a more fair and balanced industry.
What is the Women in Aviation and Aerospace charter and how did it come about?
The Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter was launched at the Farnborough Airshow in 2018, with companies and organisations within the UK’s aviation and aerospace sectors making a commitment to work together to build a more balanced and fair industry for women. The development of the Charter was inspired by the formation of the Women in Finance Charter in 2016 and the UK Government’s gender pay gap report in 2017.
Today, the charter has more than 200 signatories. What does commitment from these organisations mean for aviation and aerospace?
The commitment of our amazing signatories is instrumental in the development of an equal and fair industry for men and women alike. On a local level, they support the training and promotion of their employees, creating a welcoming and encouraging workspace. This is done by:
• having one member of their senior executive team who is responsible and accountable for gender diversity and inclusion;
• setting internal targets, where appropriate, for gender diversity in senior management;
• publishing progress annually against any targets in reports on their website; and
• having an intention to ensure the pay of the senior executive team is linked to delivery against any internal targets on gender diversity and inclusion.
On a larger scale, the efforts of each signatory play a role in changing gender stereotypes in the aviation and aerospace sector, ensuring female representation in the industry, educating the younger generation on opportunities in our sector, and creating female role models for our community.
Do you think diversity and inclusion has become more or less important to the industry while facing the challenges of Covid-19?
Covid-19 has disrupted the status quo and forced most companies to revisit and re-evaluate their structures, procedures, and ways of working. This creates numerous challenges but also opportunities to abandon outdated methods, adopt new approaches, and instigate meaningful change.
The Charter recently hosted a panel discussion at FIA Connect about maintaining the focus on diversity and inclusion during Covid-19. One of our speakers was Adefunke Adeyemi, Regional Director — Advocacy and Strategic Relations, Africa at IATA. She characterised this period as one of “overwhelming creativity, ability to adapt, of agility, and willingness to do whatever it takes to move the industry forward”. In short, we have an opportunity to make real the change we have long wished to see and rebuild the industry fairer, more diverse, and stronger than before.
Why should organisations maintain diversity and inclusion efforts during Covid-19?
It would be easy to lose sight of the importance of diversity and inclusion as companies grapple with the challenges of Covid-19, but it is equally important to remember that diverse, forward-looking and collaborative workforces will be integral in helping organisations to recover and face the future with confidence. For that reason, we must ensure that diversity is not another victim of the pandemic and that as many companies are obliged to make sacrifices and restructure, women and other under-represented groups are not disproportionately affected.
What is your advice for young women interested in pursuing a career in aviation or aerospace?
Our message to women who want to work in aviation and aerospace is that you are supported, and you are inspiring. Do not feel discouraged by a “boy’s club” or a “man’s job” because your thoughts and ideas are pivotal to the progression and future success of our industry. The Charter exists to make sure the work you do in our sector does not go unnoticed, and that your efforts receive appropriate recognition and remuneration. Lastly, you may be the role model for many in your field and in the generations to follow, so dream big!
What is the most important message you would like to send on to the next generation of young people?
Our message to the bright young people of today is that there is a place for you wherever you want to go. There are endless roles in aviation and aerospace that are open to both men and women. There are hundreds of individuals and organisations who support your steps through education and training, to your dream job in aviation and aerospace! Dream big and work hard, you can do anything you set your mind to!
How can organisations get involved in the charter? Can smaller organisations and individuals support your work?
We welcome organisations of any size to express their support for the Charter by becoming a signatory or a supporting organisation. Overseas organisations based outside of the UK can get involved as an international supporting organisation. There are also numerous ways in which individuals can support the Charter, including by encouraging the organisations they work for to become signatories if they are not already, participating in Charter events, and following the Charter on social channels.
What can you do in your position to influence change? Thank you Sumati for sharing more about the work of WiAAC in the industry.
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