No Women!

The Aerospace and Defence Industry has had long-standing diversity issues. These have not gone away during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, attention being diverted elsewhere means more will need be done when we start to normalise.

Many companies are aware of the disparity that exists and are proactively seeking ways to better represent the communities they serve. But the diversity challenge is still causing headaches for many sector leaders, not least because of the headlines generated whenever gender pay gap or BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) recruitment statistics are published.

However, headlines can often be misleading, and while efforts are being made to address the inequalities that exist, we must not overlook the excellent progress made over recent years.

Take the issue of pay as an example. Figures obtained by PayScale show that the median salary for male workers within the sector sits at around £37,500, while for their female counterparts that figure is 13% less – at about £32,500. When you compare this to the UK national average pay gap of 17.9%, the aerospace industry is performing quite well. Much of this is down to the ongoing efforts of some of the sector’s largest employers and could well mask the trends within some of the smaller organisations.

BAE Systems, for example, reported that their 2019 median gender pay gap was just 9.1% compared to the 11.2% reported in 2018. Rolls Royce has a reported median gender pay gap of 8.1%, while MB Aerospace stands at 6.4%. Mettis Aerospace states theirs at 3.4%.

Last summer, 50 UK companies in the aerospace and aviation sector signed a Charter committing to work towards greater gender balance within the industry. By abiding by the terms of this new agreement, the sector could do much more to address that other major challenge to which it has long struggled to effectively overcome – attracting new talent into the industry.

The STEM Challenge!

In 2015, the then Aerospace Industries Association Chief Executive Officer, Marion Blakey, claimed the sector did not have a “robust pipeline of young people with the right skills and training coming into the workforce.” She was correct then and the same could be said today. The aerospace industry is facing some crucial skills gaps. In 2017 for instance, Boeing forecast that the sector would need c.637,000 more pilots and c.648,000 aircraft technicians by 2036. This will have been impacted by Covid-19’s effect on the aviation sector, however there will still be future skills gaps once the market normalises.

Progress in tackling the skills shortage is being made, however. According to The Engineering Council, the number of female engineers is increasing annually (women now make up 13% of Chartered Engineers). But there is still a long way to go. There is also the representation of people from different ethnicities to consider; a third of engineers from minority ethnic backgrounds do not find engineering particularly inclusive, and 85% have had assumptions made about them based on their culture. If more than 25% of women say STEM careers are not for them, surely diversity is not truly being tackled at grassroots level? Therefore, recruiting from a diverse talent pool at more senior levels will help organisations to benefit from getting the best talent for each role as well as a wider range of experiences and ways of thinking to better inform business decisions.

Improving diversity is a long game. Businesses and educational institutions must find new ways to inspire the next generation so that aerospace and aviation is an attractive potential career path. A good example of this is aerospace giant Northrop Grumman. They have been working with schools and universities internationally to promote STEM education amongst women and ethnic minorities. They have also provided educational grants and internships. But is this enough?

Improving diversity goes beyond producing positive coverage and enhancing company reputation. It can have tangible impacts on the bottom line and can boost financial returns. Gender diverse organisations were found to deliver better long-term returns to investors. Plus, having a mix of cultures and ethnicities in a team can make it easier to appreciate and enter new territories.

The diversity challenge in aerospace is significant and requires total collaboration to tackle it. Solutions are required at several levels – within schools, within the industry and outside of the sector. Improving diversity should be a priority for aerospace companies, not only from a moral standpoint, but also because there are corporate benefits to be realised.

If you would like to discuss this article, market trends more generally, or to have a confidential discussion about your own hiring challenges and plans, please do not hesitate to contact Adam Small via adam.small@normanbroadbent.com  or +44 (0) 7483 015 602