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Insights from World Aviation Festival 2022

This year’s World Aviation Festival in Amsterdam inspired change and explored the latest innovation and strategies driving the aviation industry forward following a period of turmoil with the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

Sumati Sharma, Transportation and Services Partner, Founder, and Board Co-Chair for the Women in Aviation & Aerospace Charter led the charge on a panel addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the Aviation industry — a critical issue for many companies and organizations. 

Senior industry leaders discussed how to translate words on DEI into action: 

Here, we share the key takeaways from the discussion. 

Addressing the why on DEI 

Economic and strategic success accelerates when an organization taps into the entire employee population leveraging talent and considering all perspectives; and with products and services fully aligned with customer requirements. There is critical importance in focusing on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at all levels of organizations for it to be effective.

Based on latest numbers reported in the UK, gender pay gap progression in aviation has stalled due to the Pandemic, with little to no progression in areas such as female pilot representation (around 5%). Globally, C-suite representation in airlines for women is only at 14 percent of roles, with a heavy skew towards people and marketing roles. Beyond gender, data is not easily available on other aspects of diversity in our industry. 

A need for brave, authentic, and curious leaders in the era of DEI & ESG

The panel discussed how brave senior leaders are needed in the industry to pioneer change and create action plans to address DEI from the highest levels. The leaders on the panel were inspirational role models themselves — inspiring others to understand how to remove glass ceilings, and showing genuine and authentic passion to drive change through curiosity. They also shared examples of plans and initiatives that have been successful in driving change in different geographies, including global movements such as IATA’s 25by2025 campaign and the WIAA Charter.

Another key insight discussed at the panel pertained to the aviation industry moving towards a more responsible corporate environment. In our third year with COVID-19, there is a growing sentiment for organizations to lead purposefully and address ESG issues, with environmental and social factors at the core. The social aspect of ESG, looks to organizations to build safe and inclusive teams that elevate people and communities of marginalized groups. Leaders are — now more than ever —  focusing on creating long-term sustainable businesses and are planning for this “long haul” journey with DEI and ESG. It will not be fixed overnight, and the answers are not straightforward.

A path forward

Together, leaders must rise to the challenge of implementing DEI in their organizations by measuring results and ensuring words turn into action. The aviation industry is fundamentally about connecting people globally, and leaders should empower individuals of different backgrounds and identities to achieve their labor force's full potential.

Attracting, retaining, and promoting the most diverse workforce possible is vital to the industry’s future sustainability, performance, growth, and safety.