Words by Sebas­t­ian Ker­ridge, Tal­ent Intel­li­gence Lead at Stra­tiv Group


Here at Stra­tiv, we always strive to deliv­er diverse short­lists to our clients, and between April 2022 and April 2023, 24 per cent of our aero­space place­ments have been females; focused pri­mar­i­ly on tech­ni­cal and engi­neer­ing roles. This is a sta­tis­tic we’re proud of as less than 10 per cent of the engi­neer­ing work­force in the aero­space sec­tor are female.

In this arti­cle, we have high­light­ed four key oppor­tu­ni­ties that organ­i­sa­tions can use to enhance gen­der diver­si­ty in their recruit­ment life­cy­cle.

Part­ner with edu­ca­tion to encour­age par­tic­i­pa­tion

In a recent report on women in Avi­a­tion / Aero­space (WIAA, 2022), it was high­light­ed that 46% of females become inter­est­ed in the indus­try before they have left school. This out­lines the huge poten­tial for build­ing a brighter future for women in avi­a­tion, but work needs to start ear­ly to lay the foun­da­tions.

If organ­i­sa­tions take action by inspir­ing ear­ly through part­ner­ing with edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions and pro­vid­ing events such as work­shops, guest speak­ers, and com­pe­ti­tions, intro­duc­ing role mod­els and men­tors to younger demo­graph­ics, the like­li­hood of achiev­ing more females join­ing the indus­try can only move in a pos­i­tive direc­tion.

In a recent “Female Influ­encers” pod­cast with Stra­tiv Group a female leader in the eVTOL indus­try said, “hav­ing a men­tor helped me under­stand myself bet­ter and the world around me bet­ter. We need to ensure that role mod­els and men­tors are made vis­i­ble and avail­able to every­one and start­ing this dur­ing ear­ly edu­ca­tion is like­ly to have the high­est impact.

In the same 2022 WIAA report it showed that beyond the role of flight atten­dants, female rep­re­sen­ta­tion across all roles increased, on aver­age, by less than 1% (0.95) between 2005 and 2020. “I have often found myself the only female in the room” said Stephanie Duffy, Direc­tor of Enter­prise Tech­nol­o­gy Inte­gra­tion at Boe­ing. 

This only empha­sis­es the chal­lenges the indus­try is fac­ing in cre­at­ing a diverse work­force long-term and the last­ing impact of hav­ing a male dom­i­nat­ed indus­try with min­i­mal signs of change on the hori­zon.

Change the neg­a­tive norms

Some of the top ranked fac­tors neg­a­tive­ly impact­ing females enter­ing the indus­try relate to the tra­di­tion­al­ist, male focused cul­ture, includ­ing things such as; lack of flex­i­bil­i­ty for work/home life bal­ance, lack of fam­i­ly friend­ly poli­cies to sup­port and attract wider demo­graph­ics, and the lin­ger­ing neg­a­tive and sex­ist under­tones with­in the gen­er­al cul­ture of the indus­try.

Duffy added: “Often women do not want to apply for a job or look for pro­mo­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties if they are preg­nant or look­ing to get preg­nant as they don’t want to let the busi­ness or their boss down.” 

To take steps towards hav­ing a more attrac­tive and suit­able propo­si­tion for indi­vid­u­als from all walks of life, the indus­try needs to re-define its cul­ture and behav­iour­al norms; a female leader we spoke with said ‘mis­takes are made by com­pa­nies who think one or two peo­ple can lead it (D&I ini­tia­tives) or when it falls off the list of things to shout about’.

Con­tin­ued edu­ca­tion and engage­ment on appro­pri­ate work­place behav­iours, review­ing com­pa­ny poli­cies to ensure they are inclu­sive, and increas­ing the vis­i­bil­i­ty and pres­ence of female lead­ers in the indus­try to show­case the suc­cess indi­vid­u­als can have are essen­tial to cre­ate new norms in the indus­try. Diver­si­ty adds more val­ue to the prod­uct and what you’re try­ing to do,” Duffy says, high­light­ing the impor­tance of hav­ing dif­fer­ent ways of think­ing to inspire new and fresh ideas.

Keep the cur­rent work­force engaged

Beyond attract­ing new tal­ent and re-defin­ing and advanc­ing the cul­ture, the indus­try also needs to focus on retain­ing what tal­ent it does have. Open forums for knowl­edge and idea shar­ing where every­one feels their voice will be heard is one step but also hav­ing clear­ly defined career devel­op­ment plans, with fair and reg­u­lar oppor­tu­ni­ties for pro­gres­sion are just as key.

With the cur­rent employ­er trend focus­ing on upskilling and the new employ­ee trends of “career cush­ion­ing”, these poten­tial alter­na­tive career paths and new skills with­in the indus­try need to be vis­i­ble, acces­si­ble, and obtain­able for any­one who is inter­est­ed.

We’ve all had the expe­ri­ence of work­ing in a role we don’t enjoy at least once in our careers, but rather than los­ing employ­ees to oth­er indus­tries, we should be iden­ti­fy­ing how to find them a role that they do enjoy and retain them in this indus­try.

A McK­in­sey report in 2022 found that of respon­dents who’d quit their jobs between 2020 and 2022, 48 per cent had moved to a dif­fer­ent indus­try. These new atti­tudes to try­ing com­plete­ly new oppor­tu­ni­ties need to be har­nessed and defend­ed against, and the only clear way to do this is to ensure employ­ees in the indus­try know what array of oppor­tu­ni­ties are avail­able to them and give them the voice and con­fi­dence to make the change. 

I’ve seen women who have bril­liant ideas get lost in the con­ver­sa­tion or those con­cerned to speak up because they don’t want to be sin­gled out” says a leader in the eVTOL indus­try. They go on to advise not only women but every­one to believe in your own voice and make sure you use it.”

Tech­ni­cal short­age requires action

Out­side of look­ing to increase the engage­ment, rep­re­sen­ta­tion and over­all involve­ment of females with­in the Avi­a­tion / Aero­space indus­try, there is also the chal­lenges relat­ed to a short­age of skills.

STEM-based skillsets (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­o­gy, Engi­neer­ing, Math­e­mat­ics) are high­ly sought after for many indus­tries, yet they are also in short sup­ply glob­al­ly, despite jobs relat­ing to these skills being pre­dict­ed to grow high­er than any oth­er job fam­i­ly (11 per cent high­er) over the next 10 years.

This pre­dict­ed growth will only add fur­ther pres­sure and com­pe­ti­tion into sourc­ing and retain­ing this tal­ent, and with females mak­ing up between 20–30 per cent of the STEM pop­u­la­tion depen­dant on loca­tion,  improve­ments are still need­ed.

There is still much to be done to devel­op the aero­space and avi­a­tion indus­try into one that has equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, but the ini­tia­tives to impact this change are not small. We’ve high­light­ed four areas that may help, but they are not quick fix­es and there is still a steep ascent to climb before the tur­bu­lence of this top­ic eas­es.

Stra­tiv Group

We are build­ing com­mu­ni­ties of female influ­encers across all our core mar­kets. The pur­pose is to grow net­works and enhance diver­si­ty in our sec­tors, whether through pod­casts, net­work­ing events or the work that we do. We hope to use this plat­form to inspire future female influ­encers and pro­mote more diverse and inclu­sive work­forces.

Sebas­t­ian Ker­ridge, Tal­ent Intel­li­gence Lead at Stra­tiv Group