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.
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