There is a huge demand for pilots, engineers and air staff for the future of the aviation industry. With so much room for application, why are so few women stepping up?
There are only 5 per cent of active civil pilots worldwide who are women. This statement was bought forward by Frederica Luca, head of communications, European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) who was amongst those who spoke at the Aviation centres of excellence event in October 2019.
The percentage of female maintenance technicians is even lower while demands are set to rise by 769,000 according to Boeing’s Market Outlook Forecast. There is room for women. The problem is getting the message across to them, especially to younger girls.
Hosted by the British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) and the EBAA, the event took place with the hopes of Developing tomorrow’s workforce for a global community.
The aim of the event was to bring together politicians and educators within the UK aviation industry to discuss a rapidly growing, critical issue: the shortage of skills within the UK aviation community. There were many important topics for discussion.
There was, however, one important question that stood out among the others: why aren’t there enough women in aviation? Frederica pointed out that 30 per cent of trained aviation professionals end up accepting offers in these different job sectors.
The lack of interest in younger talent pools falls down to the lack of influence and exposure in schools and the fact that aviation is seen as a less attractive industry to work for compared to other industries.
Alongside Luca, were other individuals at the event including Sandra Kelly, UK director of skills and policy, Lisa Almond, BAE Systems Military and Civil Training – Part 147/66 Regulatory Approval manager and Rachel Gardner-Pool, CAA – head of general aviation. All experts in their respective fields and all women.
Rosalind Azouzi, head of skills and careers, Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) was also present. During her presentation, she highlighted the fact that by becoming the middleman between employers and young people, there is a chance to highlight the attraction and retention of younger members after education and training.
Opportunities for partnerships, trailblazer groups, and STEM jobs will become more easily available through their intervention.
According to the RAeS website, the Women in Aerospace & Aviation Committee (launched in 2009) was created to encourage more young women to consider aviation and aerospace as a worthwhile and exciting career.
The committee is chaired by Sarah Minett, managing director of Collins Aerospace and features a range of events from networking to seminars and the participation in the Alta mentoring programme for women.
Alta recognises that women are under-represented at the highest levels of the aviation industry. With the help of RAeS, they can reach out to provide one-to-one mentoring from successful women, and a network that’s dedicated to ensuring that talented women reach their full career potential.
Karen Spencer, principal and CEO of Harlow College and Stansted Airport College also provides future talent with the opportunity to reach full career potential. She described the key to gaining an interest in aviation was in pre-training training.
“From the ages of five to eight youngsters develop a knowledge of limitations,” says Spencer. Between that time, she says it is essential to “create at least seven meaningful engagements with employers.”
Through Stansted Airport college, both young men and women can explore the range of opportunities available to them beyond the typical cabin crew/pilot courses.
The Go on Girl campaign (organised as a part of Stansted Airport College) is a vital organisation bringing females forward into engineering- a profession that would once be seen as strictly male-dominated.
Women can access the “pre-apprenticeship in engineering operations” course which includes a certification in aviation operations at level 2. They can then progress onto level 3 and eventually land a career that could be earning them £40,000 a year by the time they are 21.
The course is championed online by employers who praise the concept. Colin Hothersall, training manager at Tui said: “Females are underrepresented in the engineering sector, so we’re keen to show this is an inclusive profession and that as an employer we welcome female talent into the business.”
Mary Cooksey, area manager at Ryanair also added: “There are various benefits to having more females in engineering. Women tend to have the ability and the flexibility to look at things from a different viewpoint; they have strong analytical skills and a real ‘can do’ attitude, particularly in the area of avionics.”
In Europe, Iberia has also gone down the educational route by encouraging girls to join their Quiero Ser (I want to be) two-day event. The programme, part of its Diversity and Inclusion Plan, is the opportunity for 35 high-school students to meet female aviation professionals in the year they start making career choices.
There they get to experience flight simulators used at the CAE pilot training school, visit the Iberia headquarters and meet with females in the company all of whom have successful careers as pilots and technicians.
Of the 35 students, many are part of the Technovation Girls Movement – an online platform of entrepreneurs, mentors and educators who teach girls the skills they need to change the world with technology.
Elsewhere at Lufthansa Technik, the percentage of this year’s new female trainees has risen by 2 per cent to 12 per cent. A percentage they consider as too low, but they have some clever plans to boost numbers.
This year, the company decided to participate in Germany’s annual girls’ day. The event, which takes place throughout the country, provides an insight into the possibilities of working in technical professions and inspiring young girls to study in those fields through an apprenticeship or university.
“On that day, we invite around 140 female pupils, aged between 12-16, so they can figure out and get excited about possible apprenticeships in aeronautical engineering fields,” explains Astrid Neben, head of human resources. “Existing apprentices provide them with a first-hand look at day-to-day working life during the training.”
Lufthansa has special incentives like MINT PINK, a program where female pupils with an interest in a career in technology spend one week at their base. They have also been in collaboration with selected universities for engineering disciplines in Germany for some time.
A place on these highly sought-after program (available for Bachelor, Master students and graduates) is only available under one strict condition: “Our target is to achieve a female share of between 20 and 30 per cent in each traineeship program,” says Neben.
This clever yet controversial application process nudges educators to expand more on the topic. This is done by teaching the importance and significance of engineering and maintenance careers to young girls in class.
The 30 per cent condition could also lead potential male candidates to reach out and encourage females to join up, securing their own place in the process. On the extra mentoring programs, the mentors are leading men in the field.
By reassuring women that they have a place in what is more widely known as a “man’s profession” more job applications are likely to come through.
“I place value on having men mentor women, because it provides a win-win situation for both parties: The women come to understand the perspective, approach, and strategies of the men, and the men come to understand those of the women. This enhances reflection and a leadership attitude.” Says Neben.
There is still a while to go until companies discover a way to make the aviation world more appealing to women.
The steps taken by the likes of Stansted college, Lufthansa and the RAeS is a steady upward climb. The challenge is reaching the top by 2038 so that hopefully, more than 30 per cent of the 500,000 strong demand for pilots will be women.
For more information on the Go on Girl campaign, visit stanstedairportcollege.ac.uk.