More women should become part of the global civil aviation workforce 

More women should become part of the global civil aviation workforce

Airlines had women in 42 percent of their workforce

Women make up five percent of all pilots globally

India has 2764 women pilots, the highest in the world

36 percent of air traffic staff are women in Australia

Initiatives needed to eliminate gender bias and for mentorship

The aviation industry could benefit from gender diversity

Boeing and Etihad Airways officials are among the speakers

The number of women in the civil aviation workforce, especially in leadership positions like CEOs, pilots, air traffic controllers, and aircraft engineers, has been on an ascent, especially in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as the global aviation industry heads toward growth and expansion. 

To boost their presence in leadership roles in the US$553.9 billion-value global airlines market, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association representing approximately 275 commercial airlines that account for more than 83 percent of total global air traffic, launched the 25by2025 initiative in 2019 to increase female representation – in senior aviation roles and in areas where women are traditionally underrepresented – by up to a quarter by 2025.

An ICAO’s global survey revealed that the participation of women holding positions as pilots, air traffic controllers, and maintenance technicians has increased on an overall basis to 4.9 percent globally in 2021. The percentage of women pilots in service increased to 4.0 percent globally, with the highest increase observed in the Asia Pacific and Latin America/Caribbean regions. North America scored highest globally with 4.6 percent women pilots, followed by Africa and Europe with 4.1 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively.

The percentage of female aircraft maintenance engineers and technicians rose to three percent worldwide, with increases being seen in all regions except the Middle East and Africa. The number of women air traffic controllers remained stable globally at around 20.6 percent, with increases being observed in the Latin America/Caribbean and Middle East regions. The Latin America/Caribbean region featured the highest percentage of women controllers with 31.8 percent, followed by Europe with 21.4 percent, as per International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Currently, 27,000+ women are employed in the UAE aviation sector, accounting for 42 percent of the total workforce, according to a report by the Emirates News Agency. The Arab region, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) has the world’s lowest rate of female labour force participation – 18.4 percent compared to the global average of 48 percent.

To boost the numbers of women in civil aviation in the Middle East region, the Women in Aviation (WIA) Middle East Conference and Awards will take place as a co-located event of the 23rd edition of the Airport Show taking place from May 16 at Sheikh Saeed Hall of Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

May Ismail, Event Manager at RX Global, the organizers of the Airport Show, said: “We are helping give momentum to the efforts to draw more women into the aviation fold in responsible positions to enhance the pace of growth and add vibrancy to the industry.”

Being organised by the Emirates Aviation Association (EAA) and the Women in Aviation (WIA) Middle East Chapter and hosted by Airport Show, the 11th  edition of the Conference and Awards is slated to attract not only the region’s most influential women leaders in the aviation industry but also organisations that collectively support the initiatives of the Women in Aviation (WIA) Association members.

Among the conference sponsors is Boeing.  In a statement, Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President of Boeing Middle East, Türkiye, Africa and Central Asia, said: “We’ve seen Boeing’s community outreach programs firsthand, cultivating entrepreneurial skills for women across our region. They drive women’s advancement into leadership and nurture future female professionals. These efforts, emphasizing crucial entrepreneurial skills like communication, negotiation, and strategic acumen, empower women and promote diversity, innovation, and sustainable progress.”

At the WIA Conference, winners will be presented with eight awards –  Innovative Leader Award in Women in Aviation; Women in Aviation Leadership Award; Most Supportive Company for WAI-Middle East; Most Sustainable Company in Aviation; Best Educational Institution in the Aviation field Award; Best Training Institution in the Aviation field Award; Most Recognised Women in Aviation Award, and Achiever Award in Women in Aviation.

Yousif Al Hammadi, President of Emirates Aviation Association, said: “We at Emirates Aviation Association are proud to support the Middle East Chapter of Women in Aviation and I wholeheartedly endorse the commitment to equipping aviation professionals with the skills necessary for future success. The mission to foster collaboration and drive impactful industry evolution resonates deeply with our shared goals of progress and advancement. I encourage every one of you to join us for enlightening panel discussions. Together, let’s seize the opportunity to inspire, empower, and shape the future of aviation. Your participation is instrumental in forging a path towards enhanced opportunities and success for all.”

Mervat Sultan, President and Founder of Woman in Aviation Middle East Chapter, remarked:  “ At the Middle East Chapter of Women in Aviation, our focus is on equipping all professionals in the aviation industry with the necessary skills to navigate future demands. Our mission is to facilitate collaboration for impactful industry evolution. Through meaningful collaboration, we’ll overcome obstacles, forge connections, and foster an environment that embraces diversity and inclusivity. Each member of the aviation community plays a crucial role in shaping the future, and together, we’ll steer towards enhanced opportunities and success for all.”

With 53 percent of Emirati women employed in the workforce, female workforce participation in the UAE well outpaced the current global average of 47.4 percent. In 2018, compared with the Middle East and North Africa, MENA countries, the UAE had more women pilots, captains, aircraft engineers, mechanics, aircraft maintenance, and air traffic controllers. Thirteen of the 15 countries with the lowest rates of women participating in the labour force were in the MENA.

The WIA Conference will debate collaborative efforts between governments, civil companies, and educational institutions; navigating public perception in the Digital Age, the era of Urban Air Mobility (UAM), and adapting to a changing aviation landscape. In addition to Merwat Sultan, the WIA conference will be addressed among others by Kuljit Singh Ghata-Aura, President of Boing Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, Jen Watson, Founder-CEO of Renaissance, an aviation industry HR Advisor and Search Specialist, Eng. Salem Alzaabi, Aircraft Engineer, Etihad Airways, Dr.Maryam Kutait, Lead, Global Accellators and Innovation Programmes at Boeing, and Roula Droubi, Regional Director for Government, Industrial; and Community Engagement at Boeing.

IATA observed that the last decade has brought sweeping redefinition to workplaces across the Middle East. “To a degree not seen before in the history of the region, it is making strides in closing its gender gap, with an increasing number of organizations adding gender diversity to their agenda. Several of these organizations are pioneering gender equity practices and policies in a way that is uniquely reflective of the region’s cultural and societal context.” 

With IATA having more than 200 signatories, the change is already taking place in the civil aviation industry. There are more than 1,000 new female pilots at airlines that have signed up for the initiative. The initiative’s signatories counted during the 2021-2022 period over 1,000 new female pilots (25+ percent) in their ranks and 28 per cent of women in senior roles. Less than seven percent of board seats are held by women in the Arabian Gulf states as against 20 percent globally. 


About RX  

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