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Pandemic Could Accelerate Gender Equality Process In Aviation, Says ICAO Chief

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Cadets training at Alpha Aviation Academy.

When the aviation industry fully recovers in a couple of years’ time, it could be a sector characterised by greater levels of gender equality, according to the chief of UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Currently, just 3 percent of commercial airline pilots and less than 5 percent of airline CEOs globally are women, while most technical roles in the industry tend to be filled by men.

But Dr Fang Liu said she has been “very encouraged by the industry-wide expectation for aviation to build back better post-pandemic”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the re-set button for aviation, offering companies a rare opportunity to make improvements and come up with more effective and sustainable business models.

“I expect air transport not only to re-emerge as a more efficient, resilient, and sustainable global network, but also one characterised by levels of gender equality which are consistent with what countries and companies are telling us they want to achieve,” Dr Liu said in an interview with Aviation Business.

“Crises of this magnitude present us with incredible opportunities for innovation and renewal, and I expect that as air transport once again begins to reconnect our world a new and much more gender balanced sector will emerge more quickly than many may have thought possible pre-COVID-19.”


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Dr Liu, who is the first woman to hold the top spot at ICAO, said that greater gender parity in the industry will help aviation to fill the hundreds of thousands of technical posts which will be available in a post-pandemic and fully recovered industry.

“That growth has been suspended for now due to the effects of the pandemic, but once we have overcome COVID-19 our sector will be looking to build back better through new innovation to be greener and more resilient than ever before,” said Dr Liu.

“Aviation is what connects that world, and it’s important that our sector provides leadership on gender equality given the visibility and relevance it has in the lives of so many global citizens.”

There has been some speculation that when the aviation sector starts to re-hire on a large scale after the pandemic, it is at risk of taking a backward step by favouring men in the employment process and when companies draw up employment contracts.

But Dr Liu suggested that she is confident in the aviation sector’s trajectory towards gender parity.


“As a technically focused sector and one heavily reliant on innovation, skills will also not merely need to be learned, but also continuously updated to keep pace with where aviation is now headed. We need to encourage and incentivise women to pursue these types of technical and managerial career paths, and lifelong learning habits.”


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