Metropolregion Hamburg

Women in Aviation: Recap of the 29th IAWA Annual Conference in Berlin

Elke A. Jung-Wolff

30.11.2017News about Hamburg Aviation

From 8-10 November, the International Aviation Womens Association (IAWA) held their 29th Conference in Berlin.

The IAWA started to form back in 1988 when a group of professional women, all working in the aviation industry, met socially. When the conversation turned to industry issues, they recognized that in a largely male business, the perspective of women professionals on these topics were useful to them. Today IAWA is a global network of leading women of the aviation industry that meets regularly on international trade shows and the annual conferences, commits to and invest in the next generation of women leaders by offering sponsorships and mentoring programs. The annual conference consists of keynote lectures as well as panel discussions of various women in aviation. In Berlin, executives like Juliane Thiele, Commercial Executive Rolls-Royce Germany and  Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems Airbus joined the group of speakers and discussed issues like the Brexit effect on international aviation, gearing up for the future in MRO and  - of course - the path to the top for women in the industry.

Hamburg Aviation joins the Conference

As IAWA's volunteer board of directors and committee members, many of them from the US, are motivated to open up the association for women from the European aviation industry, Hamburg Aviation was happy to join the annual conference at Hilton Hotel. The IAWA was generous to sponsor a conference ticket for one female Hamburg Aviation member. Sybille Rexer from the Hamburg Aviation member company Dabelstein&Passehl is already an active member in the IAWA and sponsored the accommodation for the winner in Berlin. Sanne Lehmann, Managing Director of Lehmann Cabin Interior Consulting, was the lucky one to join the conference, "an absolutely unique experience for me", the consultant for operational testing of cabin interior emphasized. "In the aviation industry, you rarely get the chance to meet so many highly qualified female colleagues on one spot. The exchange is both productive and sincere; the contacts I have already made are more than valuable for me."

At the conference Julia Grosser from the Hamburg Aviation office had the chance to speak to Katherine Bennett, OBE, Senior Vice President Airbus UK and member of the IAWA board.

Joined the IAWA conference: Julia Grosser, Hamburg Aviation Office, Sanne Lehmann, Lehmann Cabin Interior Consulting, Sybille Rexer, Dabelstein&Passehl

Katherine, what is the goal of IAWA?

The ultimate goal is to encourage more women to go into the industry, to present potential role models, to mentor the next female generation in aviation and encourage them to go into leadership roles.

You have been with Airbus for over a decade now. Have the challenges for women in the industry changed?

We talk a lot more about all kind of diversity - not only gender. Things got a lot better but there is so much more to do.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the business?

Being in the right place at the right time. Women often have to deal with family issues although men should be involved the same way. And we need to get more of a pipeline of female engineers to companies such as Airbus. I encourage women wo both study engineering and apply for engineering jobs. Women have to realize how fascinating the possibilities in aviation can be and what they can contribute to a company like mine.

How do you evaluate the IAWA mentoring program?

I've done a lot of mentoring inside Airbus - I was mentored and mentored other people. Now I just recently started to mentor ladies from other companies, Fokker and Rolls-Royce.  And I learned from them as much as I tried to help them. Not to take but give as well is maybe the most important part of mentoring. I always give this advice: Look at the people all around you. I am a big fan of the "Lean In*" program and I advise people to learn from it. You help somebody - they help you.

Is IAWA looking for more European participation? How can existing networks like the Hamburg Aviation WoMen engage?

It is a very American organisation at the moment with 60 % from the US.  My ambition and my role on the board are to promote European membership. And I said to all the Europeans who are here, please, come and join and if you are from a specific member state please just let me know and you can take a lead - in Germany for example! I am very interested to hear about the existing women's networks and at the same time I invite them to join us so we can be one powerful network instead of several small groups. I would like to see more German members but we have to make them realize what it is in it for them. We got 107 Europeans here in Berlin. Let's build on that!


Further infos on IAWA:

*Lean In Community:  Based on the bestselling book "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, small groups called Lean In Circles meet about once a month to support each other and learn new skills. The members talk openly about their ambitions and encourage each other to take on new challenges. 

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