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Equality in aviation

Equality in aviation

Iceland and the other Nordic counties have gone further than most other countries with regard to gender equal status and equal job opportunities for women and men. Equality is bound by law in Iceland with the aim of reaching all professions in society, and the aviation sector is no exception.

In 1984, when all Icelandic air traffic controllers were men, a young woman graduated as a tower controller at Reykjavik Airport, the first of many to come. At that time the first female pilots were being recruited at Icelandair - the main airline in Iceland – and the first female flight data specialist started working in the Area Control Centre. It does not seem so long ago, but these pioneer women played a large role in decisive steps towards equality in aviation. It was as if the floodgates had been opened and during the years to come women were increasingly recruited as air traffic controllers, flight data specialists and pilots, first gradually and later in increasing numbers on equal terms with men.

Isavia ANS, the air navigation provider in Iceland (here after ANS), has adopted a Gender Equality Program/Policy developed in accordance with the Gender Equality Act along with its parent company Isavia. The purpose of this policy is to ensure full equality between men and women in the workplace and to fully utilize the collective skills, strengths and know-how of both genders. All job advertisements encourage women and men equally to apply, and the company commits to paying the employees the same salaries for equivalent work which is reflected in the fact that Isavia has been awarded “Equal Pay Certification” for the past three consecutive years (ref; https://www.government.is/topics/human-rights-and-equality/equality/equal-pay-certification/)

Every year the ratio between men and women at ANS is scrutinized with the aim of raising manager awareness of the gender balance in the company. Gender balance within the air traffic controller and flight data specialist professions is monitored closely due to the aforementioned historical reasons. Numbers from the 2008 - 2021 period show that a certain peak has been reached in the ratio of men and women amongst air traffic controllers, with women accounting for approximately 30%. The ratio is different with flight data specialists where women have reached a majority, or 60%.

Upon review of the figures from past years it is clear that there is more work to be done despite existing legislation and goals. The challenge for the coming years is to further enhance and advertise air traffic controller job opportunities for women and to continue to monitor other jobs like flight data specialists to ensure that they do not become a single gender job.

As the ratio between men and women has risen towards a balance amongst air traffic controllers and flight data specialists in Iceland, the same also applies to aviation corporate management. At ANS, women hold several managerial positions such as managers of procedures, safety, incident investigation, operations, finance and human resources.

These facts indicate that gender equality in aviation in Iceland is reaching a balance that makes the industry less aware of whether the employers, managers and corporate directors are men or women. And the numbers are also consistent with the findings of the World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2021, where it is stated that Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world and has ranked number one for 12 years.s

Despite these promising trends and how proud the aviation industry in Iceland is regarding its achievements in gender equality, a constant monitoring and scrutiny is still needed. Corporate managers are aware of the importance of gender equality and are focused on not losing what has already been gained. Balance between the genders is considered a cornerstone of strong and prosperous operation and is a part of strategic management where equality is considered one of the key indicators for a positive economic and environmental results and future growth.

Author:

Þórdís Sigurðardóttir
Air traffic controller and Director of Operations at Isavia ANS