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‘Troubling’ diversity decline in aviation industry
Christine O'Donovan Pic: Mason Hayes & Curran

29 Nov 2023 / business Print

Aviation sector's diversity picture ‘troubling’

Law firm Mason Hayes & Curran (MHC) has described a decline in diversity trends at board level in the aviation industry as “troubling”.

The business-law firm’s eighth annual survey of the sector found that diversity levels in the industry appeared to be “stagnant”.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed said that there had been no improvement in diversity at senior management level in their organisations over the past 12 months – up from 46% last year.

Similarly, 63% also reported no improvement at board level – up from 47% in 2022.

‘Wake-up call’

Just 9% of boards in the aviation industry meet the generally accepted diversity threshold of 30%. This figure has almost halved since 2022, dropping from 16%.

Christine O’Donovan (chair of MHC, pictured) commented: “These statistics are a wake-up call. The aviation industry would benefit greatly by recommitting to diversity and inclusion, not just as a moral imperative but as a strategic business priority.

“The decline at board level is surprising and a bit troubling,” she continued.

“It could have significant repercussions for Ireland’s aviation industry, where diversity of candidates and their experiences at board level are essential for good corporate governance.,” O’Donovan stated.

Rethink on culture needed

The survey was conducted during the summer of 2023, with a focus on diversity issues such as gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation in the aviation industry.

The results show a modest increase in the number of organisations with a diversity-and-inclusion committee in place. This figure was up from 41% to 43%, but lower than the 51% reported in 2021.

The survey also highlights that work-life balance was the biggest challenge to career progression (44%), followed by lack of support from the business (23%) and market forces and competition (21%).

“These findings reflect the ongoing struggle employees face in juggling professional and personal responsibilities. Aviation is a global industry and those engaged in transactional practices are subject to expectation of ‘always on’,” said O’Donovan.

“To attract and retain talented professionals, aviation companies may need to rethink their approach to work and culture, and consider policies that offer more flexibility or alternative fixed working arrangements,” she concluded.

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