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‘We are doing everything we can to encourage more women’

Attracting more women into aviation-related courses at third level is a key part of ensuring a strong pipeline of female talent into the industry

Female employees still struggle to progress to senior leadership positions in the aviation industry. Photograph: iStock

Female employees still struggle to progress to senior leadership positions in the aviation industry. Photograph: iStock


When it comes to gender diversity, does the aviation sector fly on one wing? Recent research by business law firm Mason Hayes & Curran into gender and diversity in the Irish aviation sector reveals an industry where female employees still struggle to progress to senior leadership positions.

More than half of the respondents to the Mason Hayes & Curran survey said that more than 30 per cent of the total headcount in their companies is female.

However, the percentage of senior positions held by women is still low, with only 16 per cent of the respondents indicating that there are more than 30 per cent of senior roles held by women in their organisations.

This is the third year that the firm undertook the survey and is monitoring results. The findings in year three did not show an improvement in the overall gender representation since the survey began in 2016.

“While the period under review, at three years, is relatively short, the lack of progress and change is a cause for concern particularly given the continuing spotlight on the issue of gender and diversity in our community,” says Christine O’Donovan, head of aviation and international asset finance at Mason Hayes & Curran.

“All the evidence shows that greater diversity at all levels in organisations makes for better decision making and enhanced performance. Creating a more inclusive workplace for all will benefit everyone currently in the industry and those considering entering this industry – men, women and intersex.”

The survey results also suggest that the employment profile of the aviation industry in Ireland is very homogeneous. Only 6 per cent of respondents said they were from a minority or disadvantaged background with just 5 per cent saying their manager is a member of a minority group.

Many organisations in Ireland are beginning to address diversity issues by setting up diversity committees and introducing policies to monitor the level of diversity amongst staff and new recruits, but only 18 per cent of participants reported that their organisation has such a committee.

Talent pipeline

Another positive finding related to the number of diversity candidates hired in the last 12 months. Almost one third (32 per cent ) reported that the number of diversity candidates hired at entry level was more than 30 per cent.

“It’s to be hoped that this talent pipeline translates into more diversity at management and senior levels in the coming years,” says O'Donovan. “This year, only 9 per cent stated the number of diversity candidates hired at management level was more than 30 per cent Similarly, only 7 per cent reported that the number of diversity candidates hired at senior level was more than 30 per cent.”

The survey results indicate that the aviation sector has not yet voluntarily embraced gender pay gap reporting. In other sectors, many large organisations in Ireland have already begun examining their pay gap metrics in advance of the introduction of mandatory reporting. In the aviation sector, only 10 per cent of participants stated that their employer had carried out a pay gap analysis while 50 per cent stated that no analysis has taken place so far and 40 per cent didn’t know.

“Gender pay gap analysis and reporting is to be encouraged to assist in greater transparency and disclosure to those currently working in the sector, and to those considering careers in aviation,” says O'Donovan.

“The survey does give some positive indicators of increasing diversity, including the increased number of diversity candidates being hired at entry levels. For the future, industry participants and their supporting partners in professional services firms will have to continue to support all colleagues and workers in the paths they choose to achieve a greater level of equality in representation and more sustainable careers in aviation. The ultimate beneficiary of this will be the organisations themselves and the aviation industry sector giving it greater access to a wider pool of talent and enhanced productivity. Collectively this will contribute to the overall competitiveness and success of our aviation sector and the wider economy.”

Good mix

There are some very high profile women within the direct industry, such as Ruth Kelly at Goshawk and former GPA lawyer Margaret Clandillon, who set up her own aviation company.

“In Ireland the heads of funds, capital markets and corporate services are all headed up by women, so I don’t see male female diversity as a massive issue, other than that there is a focus more on diversity in all forms, including orientation and ethnicity,” says Imelda Shine, managing director of Intertrust Management Ireland.

Greater diversity should result in greater awareness generally of Ireland’s importance as the world’s premier aircraft leasing hub.

“The aviation industry wasn’t so well known a few years ago. It’s only recently that people have realised what great, interesting jobs are to be had in it. And there are now courses to train people up in it that you can be sure are gender balanced, so that even if it’s not a top-down push, there will be a bottom-up push for greater diversity over time.”

Attracting more women into aviation related courses at third level colleges around the country is a key part of ensuring a strong pipeline of female talent into the industry. 

“We are doing everything we can to encourage more women, and so too are the aviation companies themselves, because they are keen to have a better gender balance,” says Cathal Guiomard, assistant professor of aviation at DCU.

Corporate aviation is a global finance sector that is highly specialised and hugely rewarding. Says David Swan of Aircraft Leasing Ireland, the industry lobby group: “We want to attract the best from schools and universities into it. Part of that is about ensuring Irish people realise that they can stay in their own country, visit their parents at weekends, and get cool jobs that allow you to travel and make multibillion euro decisions without having to move to New York or Silicon Valley. This is a great career for everyone.”