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Analysis: WIAAB Cites Culture as Driving Women from Aviation

In its report, published Tuesday, the government’s Women in Aviation Advisory Board (WIAAB) cited culture as the biggest barrier to attracting and retaining women in the industry. While this may not be news, to have culture identified as the over-riding issue in keeping women at bay, may mean something will actually get done.

However, it is unlikely government will make it happen since laws already exist against the bias, discrimination and sexual harassment cited in the report. For that reason, it is really up to women in aviation and members of WIAAB to act collectively to turn recommendations into action, given the fact most government reports end up gathering dust. We saw the impact of the “Me Too” movement on the rich and famous, but it has been largely ineffective for the average woman in the workplace as experienced by women who are forced to sue employers for bias, discrimination and sexual harassment.

The 84-page Breaking Barriers for Women in Aviation Flight Plan for the Future outlines recommendations beyond culture including recruitment, retention, advancement and further data gathering.

“Culture underlies most, if not all, of the recommendations” it said.

The Board’s many recommendations are a compilation of similar suggestions over the last decade. But if it can move the needle by changing culture, the report will have done its job in eliminating gender biases, discrimination and sexual harassment including abuse during FAA medical exams.

For instance, it called for a permanent advisory council – a Women in Aviation Advisory Committee – to promote long-term accountability and provide sustained focus across current and future administrations and industry. More importantly, it called for the establishment of an industry-wide independent reporting program for incidents of gender bias, discrimination, and sexual harassment. This must be more than a data-gathering exercise however, it must come with action against companies and government agencies who perpetuate the culture we have today.

“In addition to combating bullying, harassment, and discrimination, it is imperative leaders in government and industry take steps to proactively foster environments of respect and professionalism,” the Board stated.

The importance of its findings and recommendations surrounding biases, discrimination and harassment cannot be understated.

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