The figures presented at the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Istanbul on Tuesday revealed that despite some progress, achieving gender equality in the aviation sector remains a distant goal.
Gender balance has been a longstanding issue in the aviation industry, particularly concerning pilots, technical and engineering roles, and senior leadership positions. In response to allegations of sexism within the industry, the airline association introduced an initiative called 25by2025 in 2019. However, only half of IATA’s members have currently signed up for the initiative.
IATA has been actively promoting the 25by2025 initiative this year, aiming to increase the representation of women in senior positions and under-represented areas by at least 25% by 2025. While acknowledging progress, IATA head Willie Walsh emphasized that women continue to be under-represented in aviation.
This year’s statistics reveal that out of the 300 airline group CEOs, only 28 are women. Additionally, 42% of the workforce in airlines participating in the initiative are women.
The appointment of Yvonne Manzi Makolo, CEO of RwandAir, as the chair of the IATA board of governors was seen as a positive step forward. Walsh acknowledged the need to improve the board’s composition, which is currently dominated by middle-aged white men from Europe.
During the 2018 annual meeting, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al Baker made controversial remarks suggesting that only men can hold the position of chief executive in an airline due to its challenging nature. Although al Baker later apologized, stating that his comments were intended as a joke and taken out of context, they sparked a wider discussion within the industry.
Guliz Ozturk, CEO of Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines, emphasized the need to eliminate such jokes and highlighted that both men and women are capable of excelling in any role based on their competence, education, and experience. Ozturk also emphasized the importance of providing education support and mentorship to female candidates to foster their confidence.
In conclusion, further efforts are necessary to promote gender diversity in the aviation sector, not only through initiatives like 25by2025 but also by providing educational support and mentorship opportunities for aspiring female professionals.