In the 21 century, women are still statistically underestimated in the STEM workforce, and the gender gap persists across the world.
The origin of this inequality lies in education. More girls are indeed in school today than before, but they still do not always have the same opportunities as the opposite gender to complete and benefit from an education of their choice. Girls and women are held back from science and math throughout their education, fuelled by biases, stereotypes, social norms, and expectations, influencing the quality of their education and the subjects they study. Therefore, it limits their access, preparation and opportunities to go into these fields as adults. Furthermore, the few women who begin careers in STEM face male-dominated workplaces with high rates of discrimination. Their contributions are often ignored, and they experience isolation due to insufficient access to women peers, role models, and mentors; and they are paid less than their male co-workers. As a result, women leave STEM careers at disproportionately higher rates than men, particularly among working parents.
Women constitute about 47% of the total workforce; however, only 28% are represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (AAUW, 2020). According to the research firm Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), only 19.2 % of STEM company board members are women in 2020, knowing that the number rose by 18.3% compared to the previous year. Another interesting fact is that among STEM industry CEOs, as few as 3% are women revealed the Credit Suisse.
Reducing the scale to the aviation industry, the numbers becomes ridiculously marginal: women make up 20% of the industry, which you can imagine, 79.7% are cabin crew. Less than 10% of pilots, maintenance technicians, aerospace engineers, dispatchers, cybersecurity experts, airport managers, air traffic controllers, and airline executives are underrepresented in all areas.
Coming up to leadership positions, less than 6% of the pilot population are women. Airline pilots like myself are only 4% worldwide, of which 1,5 % are Captains and even less as instructors. More emphasis is needed to build upon the only 3% of CEOs, COOs, and 8% of airline CFOs are women (International Air Transport Association [IATA], 2018), 16% of airport managers and other key leadership positions. That lack of female leaders as role models has been identified as one of five primary inhibitors to obtaining a greater representation of women in the aviation industry (Cranfield University, 2021).
Getting women around the world to reach more significant leadership roles in the industry is a cause dear to my heart, particularly in the minority continent like Africa, for instance, where I am from. Unfortunately, with just 3% of C-suite level roles in the aviation industry being held by women, the sector continues to have one of the poorest gender balances. My message for this #IWD22 is to exhort women not only to balance their representation in the STEM qualified industry but to aim for managerial and leadership positions. I have faith that my generation and the future one to come will #breakthebias, by continuously fighting against the ceiling glass, pushing to occupy more strategic and keys position in the industry, not letting any impostor syndrome or any external influence in their way. We are Women, remember, and that is our superpower!
Edith Mala Diop