Collaborating for urgent change: advancing gender equality in the aviation industry


Aviation, because it provides connectivity between nations, creates jobs and facilitates trade and tourism, is a key driver of economic and social development, and as such plays a key role in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While aviation is recognized as a forward-looking and innovative industry, it is yet to unleash its full potential through a more gender-balanced workforce at all levels, especially in technical, decision-making and senior roles.

Salvatore Sciacchitano, ICAO Council President

Gender equality, or the access of women and men to the same opportunities, while respecting their specificities, is at the very heart of human rights and the United Nations values. Gender parity looks into the equal representation of genders and is a measure for equality.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2022, it will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap. In addition, not addressing the existing gender disparities across various sectors could cost the world economy 1 trillion dollars of GDP by 2030. ICAO has published analytical dashboards on the participation of licensed female aviation personnel in the workforce, and its expected that countries access to and awareness of the new data will lead to better-informed targets and policy-making to help reduce the still significant aviation gender gap.

The recent ICAO Global Aviation Gender Summit that was held in Madrid resulted in a “Call to Action” comprised of several clear and actionable steps and strategies towards resolving the aviation sector’s very significant gender equality challenges. The Call to Action was presented by the President of the ICAO Council, Salvatore Sciacchitano.

“Advancing gender equality in aviation is not only the right thing to do, but a necessary transformation for the future of our sector,” remarked Council President Sciacchitano. “The Call to Action this event has resulted in accordingly conveys a strong message of determination and urgency and outlines an array of strategic action points.”
Priorities included the development of better data, which was recognized as being key to strengthening strategic foresight to support the identification of trends, anticipated needs, and planning, and accordingly to informed policy and decision-making. Participants also recognized the importance of mainstreaming gender equality, by ensuring that it informs all aviation policies and planning and is prioritized in budget plans and investments. On this point, the need for polices and strategies to reflect core principles of decent work and working environments that are conducive to women’s career and leadership development was underscored.

The upscaling and driving of increased representation of diverse talents into executive, management, and board roles was also acknowledged as crucial, with the setting of specific targets around these objectives being critical to their achievement.

Finally, participants also recognized the crucial importance of promoting access to STEM education and motivating younger generations toward careers as skilled aviation professionals.  Concerted action and collaboration with other partners and sectors is critical here as well, including with respect to role models, ambassadors, and mentorship programmes.

Raquel Sánchez Jiménez, Minister for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda of Spain

The Summit opened on 5 July by Mr. Sciacchitano and the  Minister for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda of Spain, Raquel Sánchez Jiménez, with the Ministry hosting the event on the behalf of the Government of Spain.

In addition to the Call to Action, announcements made throughout the Summit will also help drive progress towards gender equality in the aviation: namely a global  ambassadors programme announced and funded by the United Kingdom; and an intent to intensify collaboration between ICAO and EUROCONTROL in support of the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals Programme.

Convened by ICAO in partnership with the European Commission, the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the International Transport Forum (ITF) at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the event was attended by over 650 participants representing governments, business, and non-governmental organizations, with a further 1,500 viewers remotely attending through ICAO TV.

“I am fully convinced that if we don’t give up, if we keep pushing forward, we can transform aviation into a beacon of inclusivity and a global industry of diversity and equality,” Mr. Sciacchitano concluded.

All of the presentations that took place at the Gender Summit are available for on-demand viewing on ICAO TV. Though we are sharing some of the photos taken during the event, the full collection is available here.