Redoubling our efforts to gain diversity and inclusion: Reflecting on ICAO’s Global Aviation Gender Summit

by Angela Gittens, Director General, Airports Council International (ACI) World


The number 5 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal is Gender Equality.

While gender equality merits attention and effort as an issue of fairness, for us in aviation, it is a matter of self-interest as we endeavor to employ the best and the brightest to enable aviation to continue to play its role as a driver of social and economic vitality for communities and nations.

With the forecast that air service demand will double in 15 years, the aviation industry cannot ignore half of the world’s population as it competes with other industries for the talent it needs to accommodate this demand.

Angela Gittens, Director General, Airports Council International (ACI) World

The industry has been addressing the need to grow the talent pool with such efforts as Next Generation of Aviation Professionals programme, led by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and ACI`s own outreach and suite of training solutions, including those run jointly with ICAO. But we know we need to do more.

In recognition of the importance and urgency of the matter, last month, the world’s aviation leaders convened in Cape Town, South Africa, for the Global Aviation Gender Summit. Hosted by the South African Civil Aviation Authority together with the Department of Transport of South Africa and the Deputy Minister of Transport  as well as the chair of ACI World, the CEO of ACSA, and their team were the gracious and generous speakers of the gathering that drew over 500 delegates, with simultaneous interpretation in all United Nations languages. Panelists hailed from every region, sharing best practices and recommendations for moving forward.

Some key elements were identified, including the need for stronger marketing and recruitment efforts to apprise girls and young women of the opportunities in aviation. While this is also important for boys and young men, the fact is that many of the jobs in aviation, such as management, flight crews, air traffic control and maintenance have long been male-dominated. As a result, girls and women have traditionally not seen themselves as suited for or eligible for these roles. Highlighting the fact that women do indeed serve and excel in these roles is crucial in gaining the attention and interest of girls and women. Similarly, the importance of coaching and mentoring women once they are in the job was cited it as one of the most important functions managers perform, male and female.

In developing a roadmap to achieve gender equality, ICAO pledged to find ways to improve the collection of data so that efforts can be targeted, and progress monitored.

I am proud to say that ACI has long been a proponent of diversity in the workforce.

The industry has been addressing the need to grow the talent pool...but we know we need to do more.

In terms of professional development and support, ACI provides scholarships for the Airport Operations Diploma Programme (AODP) and the Airport Executive Leadership Programme (AELP). The latter is targeted at future CEOs, Deputy CEOs and Vice-Presidents of airport operating organizations and is one of our ways of creating a network of future industry leaders. In our most recent classroom session of the AELP, over a third were women, giving us some optimism that we will see more women in the highest ranks of airports in the coming years.

Through the Developing Nations Airport (DNA) Fund, we are also able to offer scholarships for our premier program to build our next generation of leaders, the ACI-ICAO Airport Management Professional Accreditation Program (AMPAP).

Thanks to our partnerships, we will continue to put the focus on education, training and job opportunities by offering to our airport members robust suite of Global Training educational programmes.

We need a skilled, committed and diverse talent pool to sustain and grow our industry. Airports are challenged even now as we can see from the demands on ACI training resources. We partner with more and more academic institutions, so we can attract our fair share of the best and the brightest and collaborating with the International Aviation Women’s Association to increase our talent pool.

It will take all of us to redouble our efforts to gain diversity and inclusion. It`s in our best interest.