Harassment and discrimination against women were cited as key barriers stopping young people from choosing aviation as a profession, according to a landmark report.
The survey of more than 180 employees was conducted by Women in Aviation/Aerospace Australia (WA/AA), an initiative to encourage participation in the industry. Its committee members include senior figures from Qantas, Airbus, BAE, Thales, Airservices and the RAAF.
The Barriers to the Pipeline report also said the “vast majority” of respondents indicated that the perception of male domination was a significant barrier to entry. It noted references to a “boys club mentality” and the “lack of support from male peers”.
“My aviation workplace is dominated by men with outdated and problematic opinions,” wrote one respondent. “If this were to change, I would think that we would have a more diverse industry as those who start their path would stick around longer as they would feel safe at work and their skills valued.”
Another wrote, “Over a decade of experience within the industry, the culture still needs to change. Females are often subjected to both biased and unbiased adversities and harassment. There is a significant gender bias in Australia when compared to Europe.”
The interim report, which you can read in full here, was funded through the Australian Government’s Women in the Aviation Industry Initiative. It was also backed by Monash, RMIT and UNSW universities.
In total, 181 respondents completed the demographic information, with 86 per cent of respondents being female, 12 per cent male, and 4 per cent non-binary or undeclared.
It’s thought in Australia, women hold only 6 per cent of plane, helicopter and balloon licenses.
The report concluded, “Though progress has been made regarding women’s perception of the aerospace sector, the overall picture is of an industry still hostile to women.
“The more acute issues of systemic gender discrimination, harassment and bias are less straightforward; multiple respondents noted that the bias and discrimination often come from the upper levels of company hierarchy.
“While change is needed at all levels, change at the top is evidently particularly critical.
“The analysis of the data here is relatively superficial; there is no comparison between the experiences of engineers and flight crew, for instance.
“The small number of women in the field mean that it may be difficult to produce statistically significant results when considering specific demographics, but further analysis is nonetheless recommended.”
Federal Transport Minister Catherine King said, “This research helps us identify what barriers exist, as well as what new and effective mechanisms could be established to overcome barriers and empower the next generation of women to join the aviation sector.
“It will also help the aviation industry improve work practices and develop strategies to attract and retain talent, supporting a stronger aviation workforce into the future.
“I’m determined to see greater female participation not just in aviation, but all across the transport sector.”