Encouraging girls to reach for the skies


For this year’s International Day of the Girl, the United Nations Organization is encouraging girls around the world to amplify their voices and stand up for their rights. Under the theme, “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable”,  the October 11th International Day of the Girl (IDG) celebrates achievements by and for girls since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and passage of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Nearly 25 years ago, some 30,000 women and men from nearly 200 countries arrived in Beijing, China for the Fourth World Conference on Women, determined to recognize the rights of women and girls as human rights. The conference culminated in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: the most comprehensive policy agenda for the empowerment of women.

Today, girls are overcoming stereotypes and changing the world in powerful ways. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. António Guterres, in support of upholding the equal rights, voices and influence of girls, has expressed that “girls can be powerful agents of change, and nothing should keep them from participating fully in all areas of life.”

Although significant progress has been made over the past 25 years to improve access to education and inclusion, girls around the world still need our support in order to achieve their full potential. While an increasing number of girls are becoming entrepreneurs and innovators in STEM fields, IDG highlights the need to invest in more opportunities for girls, because “investing in girls is investing in a better future that is equal for all – for girls themselves, for their families and for communities”.

ICAO initiatives to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls

Aviation is a historically male-dominated industry that is expected to grow exponentially in the next 10-15 years. Unless steps are taken to meet the resource demands of this growth there will be a labour shortage. Aviation and transport in general, lag behind other sectors in regards to attracting girls and young women to pursue education and work in the industry. With only a small percentage of women currently working in the sector, gender needs to be addressed as part of the strategic initiatives of aviation organizations.

ICAO collaborates with Member States, aviation industry partners and professional associations, academia, and the UN system on programmes and projects to encourage youth, and girls specifically to pursue careers in aerospace.  These principles are embedded in the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals Programme (NGAP). ICAO also hosts networking and promotional events aimed at raising awareness for gender in aviation and the advancement of talented women within the global aviation community.

ICAO’s Gender Equality Programme aims at promoting the participation of and enhanced representation of women at all professional posts and higher levels of employment in the global aviation sector. The programme urges States, regional and international aviation organizations and the international aviation industry to demonstrate strong, determined leadership and commitment to advance women’s rights and to take the necessary measures to strengthen gender equality.

For enhanced statistical and analytical data collection, ICAO proposed the creation of a new ICAO Air Transport Reporting Form to effectively collect data on aviation licensed personnel segmented by gender and age. ICAO has also coordinated with other United Nations bodies and is harmonizing the proposed form aiming for a final version ready to be sent to Member States for the 2020 reporting. Analysis stemming from such a rich and whole data source will support decision-makers to create and to invest opportunities to foster gender equality in aviation.

Girls in aviation, what does the future hold?

ICAO Human Resource Officer for Gender & Outreach, Glenda Newton, shared alarming statistics in her SkyTalk that took place during the A40 Assembly early this month.  While only 2% of commercial pilots are women, nearly 90% of cabin crew are women.

Work is still needed to encourage balance in technical areas such as engineering and flight crew. She highlighted the need for Member States to encourage and enable more girls and women to choose aviation and join such technical areas.

Member States need to increase the number of women in aviation by attracting more girls through scholarship programmes, and investments in STEM programmes with a focus on studies leading to aviation careers.

By committing to gender mainstreaming, ensuring that every document and publication has a gender lens, and establishing key partnerships, States can accelerate gender equality as well as empower women throughout the aviation sector. 

Watch Glenda Newton’s full SkyTalk to learn more.