Diversity will be one of the key topics on the agenda at next week’s FIA Connect virtual event, which takes place from July 13-15. With female pilots making up just 6 per cent of the workforce, Alan Peaford catches up with one of the session panellists

Women in the flight deck will become the “new normal” by 2030 according to Stefanie Broekhuizen, First Officer for the Dutch national carrier KLM.

Broekhuizen is one of the panellists featured on Women will take the lead by 2030, looking to a diverse and digital future from 10-11am on July 15. She believes the ambitious target is within reach if companies work on “getting the right people in the right positions.”

Broekhuizen explains: “Everybody can bring a skill set that make the total package complete. And I think women got a lot of good skills to bring to the table. So yeah, more women in the cockpit in nine years should be doable.”

Her interest in aviation started early in life from around the age of three, like many in the industry, her father was a pilot too.“When I was about 12, I started to really think about ‘Is it something for me?’ He took me along – and that’s when I was sure it’s my dream job. I had a mother who tried everything, literally everything to change my mind because she was scared, I would drown in the male dominated world.”

Broekhuizen, who lists Amelia Earhart as among her inspirations, was prepared to work hard to make her dream a reality. At 18, she I applied for flight school selection and succeeded. At 20, she got a job interview with KLM.

Negative attitudes to female pilots are a “social problem”

With women making up just 6 per cent of the pilot workforce, she said all female pilots had faced negative attitudes and prejudice from their male counterparts. “It’s really a social problem,” she said. “For instance, I had three children while flying. And at KLM, you can fly when you’re pregnant when you’re breastfeeding, and also breast pump – it’s a mother thing but I was able to do that when I was flying. And one day, either male Captain next to me was it was like, in his 50s. And I told him, I was breast pumping today. He was like, “you’re going to do what? Really? Do you need to? Do you have to today? “[And I said] Yeah, I really have to. It was not his fault. He just hadn’t any clue about being a female pilot and needing to do something like that?”

FIA Connect will be Broekhuizen’s way of sharing her story and inspiring the next generation of women onto the flight deck. Sharing experiences, she said, will allow the industry to “talk about new normals” and accept them.

Diversity creates right skillset combination

“Put the right individuals in the flight deck with the right skill sets with the right competencies and together they can complement each other and to make to flight a good process. Whether it’s a male or female, whether it’s anyone from any cultural background, it doesn’t matter as long as they have the good skill set to bring into the cockpit. Of course, I do believe that women have some advantages. It’s just a case of the right combination.”

The focus on attracting greater diversity into the industry will continue throughout the day with sessions on:

  • 11:30-12:30pm “Challenging Together: Collaborating as an Industry for a more diverse future”
  • 1:30-2.30pm “It’s Time to Invest in the Future of Digitisation:” Innovation, Efficiency & Future-Proofing Manufacturing
  • 3.30-4:30pm “Bridging the Gap” – From the Classroom to the Boardroom

FIA Connect 2021 brings together three days of insight, debate and discussion from thoughtleaders and innovators from across industry, the government and academia, as well as facilitating business connections. The event will be broadcast by FINN – the Farnborough International News Network.

The event will host an expert line up of speakers from leaders across industry, government and academia including representatives from KPMG, IATA, Rolls-Royce, Deloitte, Microsoft, RAF, Ministry of Defence, and many more.

All timings are BST

Register for FIA Connect now