APWEN advocates 30% minimum gender balance in engineering, aviation sectors

To achieve 30 percent minimum gender balance in engineering, aviation, automotive and energy sectors in Lagos State, Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN) has launched “SheEngineer 30 percent Club.”

The project launch which held in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering United Kingdom aimed to allocate 30 percent positions to women in those areas in Lagos by 2030.

Speaking during the launch which took place at the University of Lagos, programme manager of “SheEngineer 30% Club’’ Felicia Agubata, explained that the initiative would improve diversity and inclusion in the engineering, aviation and energy sectors, drive profitability, productivity, creativity and reduce skill shortage by encouraging more girls to take up engineering courses and careers.

Quoting records from UNESCO in 2014, Agubata said: “over 5.5 million girls are out of school in Nigeria, 40 percent of women have never attended school, more boys 61 percent enroll for primary education than girls 56 percent, more girls are also likely to drop out of school than boys.

“There are more males in the universities studying engineering than women, who are predominantly in the non-scientific and non-technical disciplines. This has resulted in a wide gender gap in engineering courses.

“Women are largely underrepresented in engineering sector in Nigeria and professional women engineers have been known to suffer discrimination at work, and also the apparent lack of interest in engineering by young girls have resulted in shortages of engineers in Nigeria. This situation has led to capital flight and brain drain for Nigeria’’.

Looking at the goals and objectives of the project, Agubata said it planned to encourage girls to see STEM subjects as being “non-gendered” so as to enable the girls pursue whatever interests excites them as the jobs in the future are either in the STEM industries that require STEM skills.

She added that the project would strengthen the internal capacity of AWPEN to tackle gender inequality in the engineering sector as well as expand their influence at all levels.
On his part, managing director and executive officer, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Mathew Pwajok who also spoke at the event regretted that only about 13 percent of jobs in aviation are held by women adding, “Today, the aviation industry is grappling with methods to improve inclusion and diversity. With majority of aircraft pilots, air traffic engineers, flight engineers, air traffic controllers and aviation administrators in Nigeria being male. The executive side has not fared any better as only 3 percent of managerial and executive positions are held by women.’’

Acknowledging that the aviation sector would deeply benefit from gender diversity and inclusion, Pwajok said : “In recent years, organisations like the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched initiatives such as the IATA 25 by 2025 gender diversity initiative, a voluntary initiative for the aviation sector to improve female representation in the industry.

“Airlines like Aero Contractors and Air Peace have deliberately adopted policies to increase the number of women in under-represented jobs like pilots and operations.

“In essence they took deliberate steps to address skill gaps in the sector by promoting diversity and inclusion in its recruitment policies.

In 2009, Aero Contractors, became the first airline in Africa to operate a flight with an all-female cockpit and cabin crew.’’

Enumerating practical ways to promote gender diversity and inclusion in the aviation industry, he stressed the need to remove recruiting and hiring biases; create and emphasize non-discrimination and inclusion policies among others.

Chief executive officer, HeirsHoldings oil & gas Nigeria limited, Osayande Igiehon who spoke on “Integration and implementation of gender-sensitive policies in the workplace’’ defined gender inclusion as being deliberate to ensure that everyone, regardless of gender, has equal access to resources, opportunities, and benefits.
Igiehon belived that companies with strong gender inclusion have enhanced organisational reputation and ability to attract talent and retain employees.