During Amsterdam Drone Week 2023, attention was brought to diversity in uncrewed aviation. The panel “Women Behind the Drone Revolution” raised questions such as, “What is it like to be a female leader in the drone sector?” and “How can we attract more female leaders to the drone industry?”
The panellists included the following women with executive positions in the drone sector: Nina Dorfmayr (Cambridge Consultants), Diana Seeger (Spright), Jennifer Player (Skydio) and Eszter Kovács (DroneTalks). These women shared their successes in a male-dominated environment and some of their insights into the industry with the audience.
The discussion brought forward the challenges that women still face today in this field, such as unconscious bias being a significant roadblock to bridging the gender leadership gap and women needing to prove themselves more than men to advance. Additionally, the women shed light on what is needed to improve gender diversity in the industry, including support from upper-level management to help remove barriers for women striving to reach executive positions. The consensus was that women and men must work together for a better workplace gender balance and that different areas of diversity must be addressed, including but not exclusive to age, race, culture, and gender.
The upside of this budding industry is that it provides a greater number of opportunities for women looking to make a career in the drone sector, although presently, the main focus lies in the technical aspect, the focal point being aviation – a domain in which women are underrepresented. To make greater strides and for Urban Air Mobility to become more inclusive and impactful, we believe several other domains should be aggregated, such as sustainability, mobility, the city planning perspective, and public values and ethics. This will certainly attract a more diverse network of people and possibly create room for women with expertise in these fields so they can be at the forefront of these developments. Furthermore, more women can be trained and appointed to fill technical roles.
Currently, the purpose of achieving gender balance seems to lie primarily in the aviation sector. However, we also believe that influential organisations in aviation should include women in the drone sphere in existing industry events and programmes promoting inclusivity, encouraging women to become involved in all levels of the industry. Besides the ongoing recruitment of women, current leadership could also proactively reach out to female experts and invite them to share the stage during industry and stakeholder events. EUROCONTROL is one of the great examples in the industry that stimulate women in the field to take the lead, and we hope more leaders and organisations will take a cue from this establishment.
“‘If there is one thing I hope for women from all levels in this sector is that they will fully embrace their own potential and add their views and expertise to the ongoing discussions concerning the integration of UAM and the future drone developments. Increased awareness and support from those with executive positions will help to promote female leadership, gender balance and more diversity in the industry. I am certain that women can take a bigger role and work alongside men to turn the third dimension into one that adds value to society and provides equal opportunities for all.”
Lisa van der Heijden, FF2020’s Work Package 7 Lead and Community Consultant at INSPIR8ION
While the number of women in the drone industry is still relatively low, in this rapidly evolving landscape, organisations can create more opportunities for females in the UAM ecosystem. To achieve gender balance in the workforce, it’s imperative that the industry starts now with supporting education and drone training for women with the passion and capacity to fill these leadership positions. The world of Urban Air Mobility and drones is developing at a dizzying pace, and it won’t be long until drones are interlinked with many aspects of our lives, which is why we believe now is the right moment to act on the issues of gender balance and diversity in this sector.