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World Aviation Festival panel addresses Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Translating words into action

Why is the percentage of female CEOs in aviation in single figures? Why have over half of women in leadership positions considered leaving the industry? And what can aviation do to increase diversity among staff?

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) is an increasingly important topic in the workplace – but good intentions may not always mean effective change. While airlines like Virgin Atlantic and LATAM have introduced DEI-related policies including uniform, make-up, and even tattoos, there is still progress to be made.

Attendees at the recent World Aviation Festival in Amsterdam had the chance to listen to an enlightening discussion on DEI focused on ‘translating words into action’. Sumati Sharma of Oliver Wyman chaired a panel comprised of:

These industry leaders discussed why diversity is important to them, detailing how their respective companies are implementing DEI practices. ‘When I got to aviation, I thought, “It’s going to be really great. It’s going to be really diverse,”’ Jane Hoskisson admitted. ‘And I was just blown away by the fact it was not as diverse as I thought it was from the outside’.

But things are beginning to change. IATA have introduced the 25by25 initiative, challenging firms to increase the number of women in senior positions and under-represented areas by 25% – or up to a minimum of 25% – by 2025. Separately, Estelle Hollingsworth commented on Virgin Atlantic’s target to reach 15% ethnic diversity across the workforce by 2025: ‘We’re really open around the measures we set ourselves. We want to improve; we want to take steps to really make a difference.’

However, challenges remain. Hoskisson mentioned one airline who reported that new parents – predominantly mothers – would leave six months after returning ‘because they realised there was no provision for them’. Delegates also accepted that cultural norms in one country may be taboo in another. Aviation is, by its very nature, a global business; companies must strike a careful balance between social responsibility and sensitivity.

Nonetheless, the panel ended on a hopeful note. ‘When I compare today what I see, what I hear […] with what it used to be 10 years ago, 20 years ago, it’s evolving,’ Juliana Rios said. ‘I think things are progressing’. Still, there is no reason to stop now after so much good work, and Rios concluded with a rallying cry to this end: ‘Don’t stop the fight’.

We were glad to have Consultants from Venari Partners in attendance – especially when the issue is so close to our hearts. Through our group, REACH, we are making it our mission to promote gender diversity within the airline industry, and help female leaders to connect, learn, mentor, and pave the way for greater gender diversity in senior industry roles.

Get in touch at or request to join the network here.


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