Women representing global and European transport unions are attending this week’s ICAO Global Aviation Gender Summit 2023 in Madrid, Spain, to ensure the voices of women aviation workers from around the world are heard loud and clear and to press for changes that address the systemic challenges that have plagued the industry since its formation.
ICAO’s Global Aviation Gender Summit 2023 brings together governments, employers, unions, international and intergovernmental organisations, private stakeholders, academia, and influencers of change from around the world to catalyse progress, advocate for change and promote bold actions for achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in aviation. Representatives from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) are participating in the Summit, which can be streamed on ICAO TV.
While efforts have yielded some progress since the first gender summit in 2019, women remain woefully behind in terms of representation, opportunity and pay. ICAO’s latest global survey reveals that the participation of women holding positions as pilots, air traffic controllers and maintenance technicians has slightly increased from 4.5 percent globally in 2016, to 4.9 percent in 2021. The survey further details that the percentage of female pilots increased from 3.6 percent to 4.0 percent globally, the percentage of female aircraft maintenance engineers and technicians rose from 2.7 percent to 3.0 percent worldwide while female air traffic controllers remained stable globally at around 20.6 percent.
In terms of senior leadership roles, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that only six airline CEOs were women in 2019. While IATA says that number has since grown to 29 since, it still falls far below equitable levels.
“Aviation is about lifting all of us and promoting solidarity, bringing people together,” said Sara Nelson, AFA-CWA International President and ITF Civil Aviation Section Vice Chair. “Aviation safety requires acting quickly on information and input from every person in our industry. That means airlines, airports, and governments only promote safety and strong demand when promoting respect for every person. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is not a corporate nicety – it is fundamentally how we will survive and thrive.”
“Our key objectives during the summit and going forward are clear and compelling,” said Livia Spera, ETF General Secretary. “We will continue to press for changes and better access to collective bargaining to ensure the end of salary segregation in a sector where women are mostly found in lower-paid jobs with little to no collective bargaining rights. Our women pilots, cabin crew, ground staff and ATM workers deserve better representation in managerial roles and a steep improvement in pay and working conditions.”
“The industry as a whole must address issues – including violence and harassment from passengers and coworkers, unsustainable rosters and high pressure on their physical appearance – that both force women from the industry and impact the attractiveness for women to even think about working in aviation.”