A Celebration Of International Women’s Day In Aviation – #EmbraceEquity

International Women’s Day occurs every year on the 8th of March, celebrating women and people who identify as women while highlighting the need for equality within society.

While it is important to take action year-round, International Women’s Day targets a specific issue each year with the theme this year as #EmbraceEquity.

Businesses around the world often share their support for the cause and use the day to recommit to their equality and diversity goals.

We’ve taken a look at some of those announced today and summarised them below.

Air France – “Feminizing Airline Professions”

On International Women’s Day on 8 March 2023, Air France is participating in the 2nd edition of the “Feminizing airline professions” event organised by Air Emploi.

The event, organised at the Airbus delivery centre in Toulouse, enabled 200 secondary school girls and students from the region to meet more than fifty civilian and military professionals at workshops and round tables presenting possible career paths in the aviation and space sectors.

air france celebration of International Women's Day
The event enabled 200 secondary school girls and students to meet civilian and military professionals. © Air France

Students met several people from Air France, including Emilie Hameau (IT project manager), Christine Siffre (aeronautical technician) and Pamela Boyer (A320 pilot), who shared stories about their experience and the many current recruitment opportunities.

The airline has been committed to gender diversity and professional equality between men and women, encouraging women to enter all professions. In January 2022, Air France signed a three-year professional equality agreement, providing concrete measures to increase the number of women in management positions as well as ensuring equal treatment in terms of combatting sexism, sexual harassment and pay.

Key figures (as of 31/12/2022):

  • 17,378 women at Air France, 45.5% of the company’s workforce;
  • 356 female pilots, 9.2% of the pilot workforce;
  • 8161 female cabin crew, 66.1% of all flight attendants;
  • 32% of women in IT positions;
  • 38% of women in Cargo positions;
  • 14.7 % of women in aeronautical maintenance, a figure which has doubled in 10 years.

Iberia – Increasing Women In Leadership Positions

Since 2018, Iberia has increased its percentage of women in senior positions from 18 to 24%, but today committed to further increasing that number to 40% by 2025.

María Bello, Director of People Development and Diversity at Iberia, said:

“Companies must be a reflection of our society and be as diverse as possible. Through the new plan, we want to refocus DE&I initiatives and understand how diverse our company is, identify opportunities for improvement and break down barriers. To do this, we want to involve the entire organisation, rely on training and awareness programmes, set objectives, plan actions and review all our processes.”

Iberia showcase female flight attendant, ground staff and pilot
Iberia has increased its percentage of women in senior positions from 18 to 24%. © Iberia

While 38% of Iberia’s workforce is female, only a small percentage are in professions such as pilots, aeronautical engineering or aircraft maintenance. They have committed to doing so through a range of initiatives based on three main pillars:

  • Internal Awareness and Training – Implementing workshops and diversity ambassadors and monitoring inclusive language in all internal and external communications.
  • Improving Internal Processes and Professional Development – Using internal policies and procedures, external information, and internal case studies to promote women’s professional careers.
  • Improving External Communication Actions – Making roles like pilot, engineer and maintenance more visible to a female audience by supporting events and associations aimed at lending visibility to women.

TUI – Encouraging Women To Join Aviation

TUI Pilot Amy Bannister is encouraging more women who are considering a career in aviation to give it a go as TUI launches its Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) cadet programme in the UK.

“Every day is different and it’s such a rewarding career. In the Summer, some days I’m flying into small Greek Islands and through the mountains in Dalaman which look incredible. In Winter, the Ski season flights, and of course Santa flights to Lapland are equally as beautiful and great to be a part of, while providing their own challenges with weather conditions including snow. These experiences make a day at work even more interesting, and it’s not bad to have some of the best ‘office’ views in the world.”

Amy Bannister has been a pilot for more than eight years and has since taken on a leadership role with TUI Airlines as a Theoretical Knowledge Instructor training both Pilots and Cabin Crew.  

a man and woman sticking their head out of cockpit windows
TUI has launched its Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) cadet programme in the UK. © TUI

Speaking on the new programme, Malcolm Sutherland, Director of TUI Airways, said:

“TUI Airways has an Inspiring the Next Generation project where our pilots go into schools to talk to children about the career and encourage more females to consider a career as a pilot.    

To remove barriers to training to become a pilot, we’ve also recently launched our Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) Cadet Program in the UK which trains pilots over an 18-month period.”

Brussels Airlines – 100% Female Cockpit Flight

On the 112th International Women’s Day, a Brussels Airlines Airbus A319 flew from Brussels to Marseille with two women in the cockpit. Baggage was loaded onto the flight by an all-female team from Alyzia, and passengers were boarded by an all-female passenger services team.

The flight was designed to highlight the importance of gender equality and inclusion and promote the company’s commitment to do better.

Catherine Agneessens, a pilot for 21 years and the Captain of the symbolic flight to Marseille, shared that some views on women can sometimes still be old-fashioned within society.

“Parents can play an important role in this and make even more of a difference, by regularly giving girls that extra push when they need it. Both in life and in their careers later on. In the meantime, I encourage women to fight for their dreams. Never doubt your choices and your abilities. Always go for it, 100%.”

Captain Catherine, First Officer Justine, and cabin crew members Hilke, Kedy, and Maureen were operating flight SN 3597 to Marseille today. Christophe, the only man on the flight team, was also in the cabin crew team.

women involved in the Brussels airlines all-female flight
Brussels Airlines Airbus A319 flew from Brussels to Marseille with two women in the cockpit. © Brussels Airlines

Cedric Vanasbroeck, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at Brussels Airlines, said,

“Over recent years Brussels Airlines has been working towards more gender equality between men and women, an ambition we are committed to, but inclusion in the broader sense is also high on our agenda. Everyone is welcome in our open-minded and multicultural company, whatever their gender, age, origin, religion and sexual orientation may be.”

While over half the staff at Brussels Airlines are women, there remains a challenge in the technical areas. One in ten pilots identifies as a woman, which is almost double the number usually found in the aviation industry (5-6%). In maintenance, only 5%, whereas in IT, 34% are women.

As well as equality and inclusion initiatives, Brussels Airlines strives to provide all employees with the best possible working conditions to suit them. The company encourages workers to fully develop their career potential while maintaining a good work-life balance. Their HR policy strongly focuses on initiatives such as part-time work, flexible working hours, internal mobility, sabbaticals and home working solutions, all of which can make careers in aviation more accessible to women.

Loganair – Showcasing Women

Loganair has marked International Womens Day by shining a spotlight on the all-female team leading its charter flight business.

The services provided by these five women account for around 15% of the airline’s revenue and flight tally.

In the podcast ‘FlightLOG,’ released today, Director of Charter Services, Fiona Macleod, said

“I am very proud that Loganair is highlighting its chartered services for International Women’s Day. I work with a fantastic team of five, all women, with a wide breadth of experience, and we’re all passionate about what we do.

Diverse, agile, and resilient, charter services contribute significantly to Loganair’s operations and played an especially important role in the pandemic when passenger services ceased.”

The other women leading the charter flight business are:

  • Wendy Clark – Head of Charter Services.
  • Nicola McKimmie – Senior Charter Executive.
  • Katie Helyer – Charter Services Delivery Co-ordinator.
  • Danielle Bavidge – Charter Services Delivery Co-ordinator.
a female pilot talks in a school
Logainair’s programme “Flying’s for All” includes initiatives aimed at attracting more women into the field from a young age. © Loganair

In addition to the podcast episode, Logainair’s programme “Flying’s for All” includes initiatives aimed at attracting more women into the field from a young age. This includes seminars in schools and colleges from women in leadership roles, pilots and engineers.

An excerpt from their information page on this states:

“We believe that a big part of improving female representation is to challenge bias and stereotypes from an early age – that’s why our team regularly hold seminars in schools and colleges to be role models for all young people and showcase that everyone can have access to the same opportunities, and be who they want to be.”

Qatar Airways – Week-Long Series Of Activities

Staff at Qatar Airways have celebrated International Women’s Day with a week-long series of activities, including masterclasses, networking opportunities, and interactive tours of its facilities.

Qatar Airways Cargo, the cargo division of the Qatar Airways Group, joined celebrations by flying its first-ever all-female freighter flight on 5th March. The scheduled Boeing 777 freighter from Doha to Shanghai was operated entirely with a crew made of women, including ground staff and flight deck crew.

qatar airways cargo all-female crew
© Qatar Airways Group

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said:

“In honour of International Women’s Day, we recognise the significant role women play in our airline and organisational culture. Since the inception of our airline more than 25 years ago, we have been fortunate enough to benefit from the expertise of accomplished female professionals who have left their mark on our company and helped us become the World’s Best Airline. This week was dedicated to uniting our female staff and supporting their growth within the aviation industry. We salute their contributions in helping us meet our organisation’s ambitious goals.”

Are you in the aviation industry? How has your company celebrated International Women’s Day? Let us know in the comments.

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Megan Carmichael
Megan Carmichael
Web Editor - After a long stint in Tech, Megan took her leave and followed a passion of writing! Megan started writing a blog in 2017, on and off, fully committing in 2020 when there was nothing else to do during the lockdown. Since then she has published in Outdoor Magazines, written website content for online businesses and wrote feature pieces on Travel, Lifestyle, Freelancing and more.