In recent years, countless studies have been conducted to identify barriers and inhibitors to the advancement of women in the workplace; particularly in those industries that continue to be male-dominated. Conversely, much research has focused on helping business leaders, companies, and organizations understand the enablers to enhance the attraction, retention, and development of women. A consistent recommendation from these studies to enable the advancement of women is visibility.

It should come as no surprise that we are seeing an increase in the number of ways to publicly recognize and highlight female trailblazers, champions, and role models which allows for the creation of visibility of women’s key accomplishments. These accounts are helping others understand how the achievements of individual women are contributing to the growth and success of business and positively impacting our industry. Organizations that widely showcase these success stories are in turn reinforcing the importance of a culture of diversity and inclusion in the sector.   

It has been projected that business demands will continue to increase. As such, the aerospace and defence industry will need to draw from a diverse talent pool to remain an economic driver. Data and research from McKinsey published in 2017 concluded that “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 15 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability.”(1)

Gender equality is also a serious business for Canada’s federal government. As an important partner to the government, the aerospace and defence industry has a significant role in supporting and benefitting from Canada’s commitment to gender equality. The government’s defence policy – Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) – “places an unprecedented focus on diversity and gender equality as a means of strengthening the operational force and positioning the Defence Team as a preferred employer.”(2)  

It isn’t just a numbers game. Increasing the pool of women candidates at every level so that new employment and promotions should not rely on preferential treatment or quota system. Attraction and facilitation through company culture is the key to changing the underrepresentation. Small to Medium Businesses such as Bluedrop Training & Simulation have embraced gender diversity, putting in place company policies to attract women to be part of its diverse workforce and facilitate their professional development. “What attracts women candidates to Bluedrop is our company culture,” says Kim Wettlaufer, Director of Human Resources.  “The culture includes employment equity, social corporate responsibility, community engagement, and flexible work arrangements.”

Visibility comes in many forms and while many businesses are internally recognizing their trailblazers, there are also many industry organizations that have established unique ways to acknowledge female role models. For example:

  • International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA) provides a worldwide network dedicated to promoting the advancement of women in aviation and aerospace, providing visibility to female leaders in the industry. IAWA President, Alina Nassar, says “understanding the path and difficulties female leaders have faced in their journey to the top is fundamental and an inspiration to one’s own process.”  At the 2018 Farnborough Airshow, IAWA introduced a Women in Aerospace and Aviation Charter – a pledge for gender balance – with over 130 companies and organizations from around the world as signatories.
  • CADSI’s Women in Defence and Security (WiDS) promotes and supports the advancement of women in careers related to Canadian defence and security by developing a community that works together to transform culture, recognizing excellence, developing talent, and creating connections. WiDS celebrates women trailblazers through their annual scholarship. In honour of a woman who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence or policing, the scholarship provides a deserving woman with support to pursue studies related to defence and security. In 2019, WiDS and AIAC conducted a roundtable to learn directly from women employed in Canada’s defence and security industry called “Let Your Voice be Heard”.  
  • KPMG’s Women in Aerospace, Defence and Technology is a forum that highlights the impact of pioneering women, rising stars and champions of diversity across a variety of disciplines; bringing together specialists to provoke conversation on the policies, decisions and technology that influence current events in the sector.  
  • Women in Aerospace Canada is dedicated to expanding women’s opportunities for leadership and professional development as well as increasing their visibility in the aerospace community by creating a professional network in Canada and across the globe. WIA-Canada has partnered with various aerospace and defence companies that have demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of women.
  • The Northern Lights Aero Foundation aims to attract women to careers in aviation and aerospace by recognizing and celebrating the achievements of accomplished women in these fields.  Every year, the Foundation’s national award program, the Elsie MacGill Award, recognizes, promotes and inspires past, present and future generations of Canadian women in the industry in the categories of Flight Operations, Government, Business, Education, Engineering, Pioneer and Rising Star.

Marillyn A. Hewson, Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and CEO recently said “recognizing the achievements of women helps promote a culture of inclusiveness and build momentum for changing structural and process impediments that stand in the way of other women advancing in the organization. Moreover, highlighting successful women sends a clear message to individual women that the organization is committed to gender diversity and will support their development and growth.”

Women’s accomplishments are gaining traction and trailblazers should be applauded. Celebrating the strides that have been made to drive gender diversity and inclusion in the workforce also provides encouragement to other women. When women see other women being celebrated and recognized, they can visualize a path for themselves and they are encouraged, even emboldened, to strive for more.  It highlights those organizations that are willing to take practical and consistent steps to enable women to develop their skills and advance, helping to create a culture that attracts more women. Actively promoting diversity sends an explicit message to women that they are being seen and that diversity is a high priority. It also purposefully communicates to all employees that there is an unquestionable and genuine commitment to the amount of change required to overcome years of outdated practices and biases.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that gender diversity is critical to business success in aerospace and defence and inclusion is the way to truly unlock the power of diversity.(3)


1 – Ellingrud, K., Manyika, A., Manyika, J., Woetzel, J., Riefberg, V., Krishnan, M., & Seoni, M. (2016). The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in the United States.  The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in the United States. McKinsey Global Institute.  

2 – Government of Canada.  (2018).  Defence Investment Plan 2018 Part II: Maximizing Defence’s Success.  

3 – Korn Ferry Institute.  (2020).  “Soaring through the glass ceiling: Taking the global aviation and aerospace industry to new heights through diversity and inclusion.”