Emma Bossom, Business Development Director at the Royal Aeronautical Society – Diversity in the aviation industry: What would Amy Johnson think?

Amy Johnson

Emma Bossom is the Business Development Director at the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), responsible for growing commercial activities and developing relationships and opportunities to benefit the global membership. She has worked within aerospace and aviation for the last eight years and has recently become more involved with the work of the Society’s Women in Aerospace and Aviation Group to address inclusion and equality issues.

Emma Bossom

Emma Bossom

“…Much has been said across numerous industries about the introduction of quotas in order to address the gender imbalance in organisations but, in aerospace at least, I don’t think we have the right talent pool in place yet to consider positive discrimination…” 

Q. – Which roles can women perform in the aerospace and aviation industry? A. – Any they choose…

What’s your perception of the roles women can perform within the aerospace and aviation industry? Engineer, press officer, pilot, research fellow, doctor, air traffic controller and a lawyer were just some of the talented women I was in a room with last week at the Farnborough International Air Show.

Only 6% of people working in engineering are women and only 4% of flight decks are female so it’s no wonder that perhaps the general public is not aware of the exciting and challenging career opportunities available. This is something we urgently need to change because the contribution of aerospace and aviation to the British economy is integral to its growth and success, and we need more skilled individuals coming into the industry.

Royal Aeronautical Society working with the International Aviation Womens Association

Last week, I was excited to be part of a number of activities aimed at encouraging an inclusive and skilled workforce within the aerospace and aviation industry. Firstly, I helped to broker a memorandum of understanding between the Royal Aeronautical Society and the International Aviation Womens Association to provide women across the globe additional opportunities for professional development through membership, networking and events.

As Judith Milne, Chair of the RAeS Women in Aviation and Aerospace Committee said, “We believe that by increasing collaboration across the industry we have an opportunity to make a step change in the industry’s approach to diversity.”

Amy Johnson DebateDiversity in the aviation industry – What would Amy Johnson think?

The following day I attended the Amy Johnson Debate, hosted by the Royal Aeronautical Society, with support from Airbus Group, Rolls-Royce and Thales. Amy Johnson was a pioneering English aviatrix who set numerous flight records for speed and distance in the 1930s and has inspired many women to become pilots, not least Carol Vordermann.

The theme of the debate was ‘Diversity in the aviation industry – what would Amy think?’ and on the panel were RAeS Past President Jenny Body, Marion Broughton VP, Thales Air and Land, Louise Donaghey, TotalCare Product Director, Rolls-Royce, Thierry Baril, Chief HR Officer, Airbus Group and Maria Miller MP.

Quotas – positive or negative?

Speaking about her company, Marion Broughton noted that while 20% of graduates entrants were female at Thales, this dropped to just 4-5% at the top of the organisation. Clearly there’s something going on mid-career that we need to address to help facilitate more women moving into senior roles and leadership.

Much has been said across numerous industries about the introduction of quotas in order to address the gender imbalance in organisations but, in aerospace at least, I don’t think we have the right talent pool in place yet to consider positive discrimination and agree with Thierry Baril, Chief HR Officer at Airbus Group when he said, “much better to work with ambition to reach targets than work to constraints,” by which he was referring to quotas.

Role models to overcome stereotypes

Another area of concern raised by Louise Donaghey, a senior sales director for engine support services, is having the right role models, at all levels and in all areas, who can be showcased to potential employees. It was really interesting to hear Louise talk about how an engineering background can open up doors to other areas within the industry such as product management, planning, services, operations and sales.

Teachers and careers advisors need the right information

The key to a future pipeline of talented aviation professionals are the teachers and careers advisors in our school. Students must make choices about their education at a younger and younger age so we need to promote the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects to pupils and teachers alike.

If teachers and careers advisors are not well informed about the opportunities within aerospace, how can they help support and advise their students. I really liked the idea suggested by RAeS Past President Jenny Body, that teachers should have an annual week long sabbatical on placement with industry. What a great way to facilitate integration between education and industry to better serve future generations.

Fully committed to developing an inclusive talent pool

Listening to comments from the audience at the debate suggest the aerospace and aviation industry, and the women and men working in it, are fully committed to developing an inclusive talent pool that truly reflects society.

I was particularly heartened to hear from a 16 year old physics student, aspiring to work within aviation, who stood up to thank all those present for their inspirational comments, for being role models and their continued work to encourage more women into the industry. I can’t wait to see where her passion takes her career in the next 10 years.

 

For more information on careers advice and guidance in the aerospace industry, visit http://aerosociety.com/

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