Today – 19th July 2019 – is the first anniversary of the Women in Aviation and Aerospace (WiAA) Charter.

Launched on 19th July 2018 at Farnborough International Airshow, the charter was immediately signed by Sharing in Growth who is wholly supportive of the commitment to build a more balanced and fair industry for women.

As Sharing in Growth CEO Andy Page explained: “If we are to succeed in our vision of developing highly valued manufacturing for this generation and the next, then it’s essential that manufacturing adapts to appeal to the full demographic of society where one of the most glaring disparities is women.”

At the outset, Sharing in Growth decided upon a four-step approach to backing the charter:

Look in the mirror
Collate and share best practice
Leverage political support
Secure support for the charter
Here we chart how Sharing in Growth has implemented this approach over the last year and used its unique position to get the message out to the UK aerospace supply chain.

Look in the mirror

As a first step Sharing in Growth carried out a review to see where it could improve and concluded that the initial focus needed to be on how to attract, recruit and retain female coaches. It then set up a working group with a plan of activity, which saw new workwear, changes to the recruitment process, more female role models on the website, and a group of volunteers who work with local schools to promote STEM careers.

Business transformation manager Ashlea Finn also joined the national Women in Aviation and Aerospace charter steering committee, bringing back information and ideas to share with the Sharing in Growth community.

She said: ”Working in the supply chain, I felt it was important to stress that signing the charter doesn’t mean chasing targets that aren’t appropriate to your business, it simply commits organisations to drive diversity and inclusion and to provide fair opportunities for women to succeed.”

Clockwise from top left: Baroness Vere at the House of Commons, Ashlea Finn, Katherine Bennett (centre) with beneficiary signatories at the Sharing in Growth All STAR

Collating and sharing best practice

The next step was to identify and share best practice. So, to mark International Women’s Day in March Sharing in Growth organised a WiAA seminar which attracted around 60 guests from more than 30 organisations including Rolls-Royce, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Department for Transport, IATA, GKN Aerospace and many of the Sharing in Growth programme participant companies.

The event featured role model speakers who explained how, as ambitious women, they had taken risks and opportunities to develop their careers in aerospace, while companies such as Rolls-Royce and Sharing in Growth programme participants Oxley Developments, explained their approach to diversity and inclusion.

Lighting specialists Oxley were working with schools and young people to nurture an interest in STEM careers by providing positive experiences and role models. Over the last four years these outreach activities had engaged with more than 10,000 young people.

Said Oxley marketing manager Jayne Moorby: “We need to reduce gender stereo-typing from a young age and raise the profile of advanced manufacturing in a way that appeals to females. Young women cannot be what they cannot see.”

Leverage political support

The seminar was a huge success, recruiting ten signatories which helped contribute to achieving WiAA’s goal of securing 100 signatories by the next major event, a Sharing in Growth and Heathrow Airport sponsored House of Commons reception in April which drew substantial support from the Aviation and Aerospace All Party Parliamentary Groups.

Keynote speaker Aviation Minister Baroness Vere said: “Aviation and aerospace are great industries to work in and the support of these 100 companies is an important step towards greater gender diversity. If any business is to have the highest quality workforce, diversity must play an important part. And I am delighted that so many companies have recognised this and are doing something about it.”

Katherine Bennett CBE, Co-Chair of the Women in Aviation & Aerospace Charter and Senior Vice President at Airbus, said: “Seeing so much commitment from the aviation and aerospace industries to work towards gender equality is promising for our future. We have taken a huge step towards making greater gender diversity in our industries a reality.”

Secure support for the charter

Katherine was then invited to promote the WiAA Charter at Sharing in Growth’s annual All STAR best practice event in June which led to another eight signatories with the Sharing in Growth community now accounting for 20 of the total 121 charter signatories.

Read more on WiAA Charter progress

Women in Aviation and Aerospace website