The Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter (WIAAC) has teamed up with IATA to promote the importance of maintaining a focus on diversity and inclusion as the aviation and aerospace sectors recover from the effects of Covid-19. According to research by the World Economic Forum from March 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic will set women back by a whole generation in terms of gender parity and pay gap.
Last week saw the Challenging Together panel at FIA Connect discuss key actions the aviation and aerospace sectors can take to further the aims of diversity and inclusion. The panel was moderated by Sumati Sharma, co-chair of WIAAC and a partner at Oliver Wyman. She was joined by IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh, WIAAC co-chair and CCO of Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace Jacqui Sutton, and non-executive director at Norwegian Airlines, Chris Browne. The panel highlighted the need to work together to challenge the sectors to act now through initiatives such as WIAAC and IATA 25by2025.
Key takeaways from the panel:
• The importance of representation at senior leadership level. The panellists advocated for senior leadership to lead by example in building a sustainable future. They said that more diversity in an organisation brings an expanded and educated approach to challenging industry issues, and that businesses with a diverse work force across all seniority levels are proven to deliver better results and be better equipped to address challenging issues.
• The importance of encouraging ambition from the beginning. The panel identified an “urgent need” to change the gendered perception of aviation roles, from as early as school age. A child’s perception of aviation and aerospace roles is hugely affected by the subjects they are offered at school and the job roles they are told are available to them. Investment in education will expand the pool of talent entering the sector without alienating men, said the panel.
• The importance of authenticity. The panel said it is crucial for senior leaders to connect with diversity and inclusion issues in a personal way – not just chasing targets. Underrepresented groups will leave an organisation that is not inclusive, they said, and that talent of all races and gender need to feel valued in an organisation. Authenticity is a key to retaining these groups and achieving progress.
• How to speed-up D&I progress. Transparency and data is vital. The panel recommends that organisations publicly disclose their diversity and inclusion targets and their progress towards achieving them, and publish their gender pay gap report. Additionally, the industry must maintain an open dialogue about diversity and inclusion issues. “The more open we are, the easier it is to face and challenge issues appropriately to build a stronger, more diverse industry, stated the panel.
Sumati Sharma, co-chair of the WIAAC said “It was a pleasure to speak with industry trailblazers who share our passion for diversity and inclusion. Our FIA Connect panel was insightful and necessary in ensuring the aviation and aerospace sectors maintain their focus on and commitment to underrepresented groups. By urging these sectors to be changemakers, we hope to see more organisations inspired to drive change, committing themselves to the steps it will take to build a better industry of the future.”