Mind the Gap submitted by Sajedah Rustom

Jan 22, 2024

Whilst momentum in diversity and inclusion is becoming more prevalent in aerospace through equal representation and opportunities, we still have work to do as a collective across the industry.

Diversity comes in many forms, all required to work in harmony to advance the industry. Some of the themes at play include women in leadership, broad nationalities, culture, language and perspectives, STEM focus in educational institutions, progression, and professional development from top floor to shop floor.

Organizations such as Women in Aerospace Canada focus on promoting, networking, educating, mentoring, learning and development in aerospace, defence, and associated domains. Such organizations identify, foster, and elevate the interests of women in aerospace and related sectors; create a platform for diversity and inclusion for all; advance learning within and in partnership with schools, colleges, and universities; creating global alliances with aerospace associations and communities worldwide for an invaluable, multiplier effect.

According to the Pilot Institute, female pilots only account for 10% of the total.

Aerospace engineers only 13%, with male to female ratio of students entering aerospace engineering at 5 to 1, with Algeria being the country with the highest proportion of female graduates in engineering.

At the next level up, Mckinsey’s 2023 Women in the Workplace survey states that women represent one in four C-suite leaders, and women of color just one in 16. 38% of mothers with young children say that without workplace flexibility, they would have had to leave their company or reduce their work hours during and post pandemic.

To positively support this reality, 60% of companies have increased their people and culture investments, with 3 in 4 HR leaders reinforcing that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are critical to their companies’ future success.

Varied experience, nationality, culture, and language are also key. One of the programs that WIA Canada is very passionate about is Welcoming Immigrant Women in Aerospace [WIWA]. This program seeks out immigrant students and professionals in aerospace, to integrate them in Canada, partnering them with organizations searching for such talent. This can be via apprenticeship, part-time or full-time positions.

Equally, WIA Canada creates important partnerships with universities and educational institutions to engage and enable students in STEM, by encouraging their entry into aerospace professions, connecting them with the workplace, via internships and employment opportunities.

In addition, those already working in the industry from top floor to shop floor can accentuate their skillsets by enrolling in the business, leadership, technology, and operational excellence courses, that WIA offers in conjunction with universities and local government grants.

As a leader in the industry, success should be about focusing on people, productivity, and profit. When people are taken care of, nurtured, and developed in a culture that centres on positive core values, inherently productivity and profit will follow. Leadership is about having a vision, seeing the skill and will in all types of people, their capabilities, aptitudes, and backgrounds, creating an environment that encourages innovation, healthy challenge, continuous improvement, and development from top floor to shop floor. This in turn builds winning teams through individual and collective development.

We are the sum of our parts, and every puzzle piece brings a new perspective to the big picture. Harness it and cultivate it. A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.