Organisation aims to attract more women to aviation industry

A US company is looking to attract more women into the aviation industry in the UAE and the region.

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DUBAI // A US aviation organisation is aiming to attract more women to the industry in the UAE and across the region.

Women in Aviation plans to launch its UAE chapter next month, and will offer scholarships in an attempt to raise the profile of the industry.

“Everybody knows about aviation and that it involves piloting, ticketing or flight attending,” said Mervat Sultan, the organisation’s president, on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow last week.

“They don’t know we have many different windows across aviation, from the ground up to the sky.”

The organisation plans to introduce women in the UAE to institutions, schools and colleges that provide industry-related training.

“We are interested in preparing our new generation with a proper education knowledge in aviation because, if you look at what’s happening now in the region, especially in the UAE, it’s becoming the hub for aviation,” Ms Sultan said.

“With the number of aircraft being ordered from Boeing and Airbus, imagine how many jobs they will look for when they receive these planes. So why should we use outside staff?

“I’m not against it but since we have this new generation and they have the passion for aviation, then we should go for it and prepare them for these jobs.”

Ms Sultan said that although the industry was still relatively young, there were more women coming on board.

“It’s important to have women in this industry because it’s booming now,” she said. “The future is looking into aviation more than cars, and moving around from A to B is easier now via aircraft than trains.

The organisation is finalising the preparations for its launch, and its UAE website should be operational by the middle of next month.

“We will show what memberships we have and we will receive funds for a scholarship for women who are passionate about aviation but cannot financially do it,” Ms Sultan said.

“We want to help them get their degree and we’ll be going into schools and universities to talk to the students about aviation, too.”

Another international aviation association for women has announced plans to organise a conference in the UAE in 2015.

“When I first came to the UAE seven years ago, I was surprised that there was no network for women in aviation,” said Carol Anderson, the aviation legal counsel at the International Aviation Women’s Association.

“I found it was like I was a fish out of water in terms of networking, so I found other women in business-networking associations and I could see there was a real appetite for that among nationals and expatriates – but it was lacking specifically in aviation.”

She said the industry had always been dominated by men.

“That’s why we set this up, to provide some kind of forum for women in aviation,” Ms Anderson said. “The main ethos is to provide a network and to encourage younger females to develop their career in aviation.

“There are so many avenues in the industry and it’s so international – you could be in Dubai this year and Australia next year. It takes you across the globe.”

Ms Anderson said the industry was growing at a rapid pace.

“It’s an exciting time to be a woman in aviation, especially in the Middle East,” she said. “You only have to look at the news from this week to see that the order book for aircraft and engines in the UAE and Qatar alone is probably two or three down the list of largest order books on the planet right now, after China and possibly Brazil.

“When you take that into consideration and imagine the growth that is in front of us over the next 10 years, you have to start to think about bringing women into sustainable career paths in aviation in the Middle East.

“So we want to create a safe, informative, educational environment for women of all backgrounds to come together and share experiences, be inspired and motivated to climb to the next level, and I think the number of women in aviation is bound to grow.”