Two years after the Women in Aviation & Aerospace Charter was launched, Marcelle Nethersole speaks its co-chair and senior vice president at Airbus in the UK, Katherine Bennett CBE about its growth

The Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter was launched at Farnborough International Airshow in 2018 by former Prime Minister Theresa May.

It was created to help tackle the gender imbalance in sectors and careers that have been historically dominated by men, and it is backed by the government, supported by the department for transport and the department of business, energy and industrial strategy.

Katherine Bennett explained: “Following on from successful charters in other industries such as the Women in Finance Charter, an idea was sparked to bring the aviation and aerospace sectors along the same journey.”

Members of the charter include aerospace manufacturers, airlines, airports, trade bodies and others. By signing up to the charter, an organisation commits to having one member of their senior executive team who is responsible and accountable for gender diversity, as well as publishing progress annually, and having an intention to ensure the pay of the senior executive team is linked to delivery against any internal targets on gender diversity and inclusion.

Charter has grown from 45 signatories to more than 200

So, two years on since its launch, how is it doing now?
“When the charter launched there were 45 organisations who had committed to improving gender balance and now the charter has more than 200 UK-based and international organisations as signatories and supporters,” said Bennett.
“Since its launch, the charter has seen steady growth in its signatory base, demonstrating how much this topic means across the industry.”

One of the main aims of the charter is to help progress women into senior roles within the industry. “The charter does its best to showcase women in the industry, showing young women that these careers are open to them and they can be anything they want to be,” she said.

“The charter is trying to tackle the preconceived ideas that engineers and pilots are men and charter signatories participate in a lot of STEM engagement where children and young people can see both men and women in the industry.”

A need to focus on sharing best practice

Off the back of the charter’s creation, several signatories have created their own internal and external programmes to demonstrate that their careers are open to everyone.

“There have been some create successes in sharing the best practices of companies at a string of events,” said Bennett. “However, attempts to formalise this best practice sharing have thus far not gained much traction.”

“Progress has also been slow on the production of a baseline report which attempts to outline and gather data on the problems experienced by women and organisations in both sectors. We have seen good progress on this since Korn Ferry came on board in the early part of the year, and it is hoped that we will have something the benchmark ourselves in the coming weeks.”

“Vibrant and engaged community”

Bennett adds: “The biggest success has to be the vibrant and engaged community that the charter has encouraged, with positive discussions taking place between organisations from throughout the aviation and aerospace sectors on how they can work together to make them a better place to work for men and women alike.”

As for the importance of signatories, Bennett said ‘signing up to the charter isn’t just signing a piece of paper and then forgetting about it.’

“This isn’t about setting quotas but instead a signatory will decide what targets are the most appropriate for their organisation and implement going forward,” said Bennett.

“This will hopefully be integrated with a mechanism through which our signatories will be able to measure a number of metrics around their workforce, learning again from similar work done in other industries, allowing them to measure against peers of all sizes, and from a range of sectors, with links to best practice in each of these areas also available.”

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