Yesterday was International Women’s Day, throughout this month, FINN will be celebrating diversity in the workforce.

Our Flashback this week, from FIA Connect 2020, came with a stark warning to businesses who neglect the need to increase diversity in the workforce.

Dame Deidre Hutton, Chair of the UK Civil Aviation Authority said statistics revealed that the UK still had a long way to achieve a more diverse workforce: “One statistic I have is that in the UK, we have the lowest number of women in engineering professionals as a career of anywhere in Europe at 11 per cent – you know that is really, pretty awful.”

UK has lowest number of female engineers in Europe

“And if aviation grows as, I actually believe it will, in all these challenges, then industry is going to need women, there aren’t going to be enough blokes to do the jobs. So it’s really important. But also diversity, just bringing such an interesting range of ideas, it makes people creative. It Just brings in a whole range of different things. So, what are you got to do to get girls?”

Watch your language

Language made all the difference when it came to attracting more women applicants. Kirsty Murphy, pilot of Blade 2 in the The Blades Aerobatic Team and the first female pilot for the Red Arrows, outlined a situation where a job advert had attracted just 8 per cent of female applicants for an engineering role. Simply changing the wording of a reissued advert yielded a more balanced response.

“So they’ve not changed the job, they’ve not changed the roles and responsibilities, they’ve changed how the job is described. Some of the competitive wording was removed and so words like ‘challenge’ or ‘competition’ are taken out and other words put in their place, along the lines of ‘being able to make a difference’ or ‘work as part of the team’. So, like I say not changing the job, just changing how it is described. And when they put it back out 48 per cent of people who applied for it were female.”

Space – the final frontier for diversity and opportunity

Kathie Bowden works in Skills and Careers Development at the UK Space Agency – the final frontier for diversity of opportunity and interests. She said the industry was open to anyone with passion – but that employers needed to “step up” through offering opportunities for work experience.

“It’s also about climate data. It’s also about Earth observation data that gives us information about the planet, about agriculture about about geology it can go absolutely anywhere. And one of the things I always say about space is ‘What’s your passion?’ What do you really like doing. And we can probably find a space, a place that you can use your interests within space.”

Employers must “step up” with work experience opportunities

Bowden added it was a frequent comment that employers didn’t see enough work experience on CVs – but explained there was a disconnect between these demands and the opportunities available for young people.

The agency is attempting to fill the gap, having established SPIN, a programme which brokers opportunities for students during their university studies to be able to access all kinds of different work experience seven years ago.

The session took place on the final day of FIA Connect. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, speakers believed that a commitment to diversity and inclusion would not only help the industries recover from the freefall in demand caused by the pandemic, but would bring fresh ideas which would be key to the growth of aviation in the future.

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