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A Skilled GirlForce

Published on  16 October by Amber Harrison , Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, SITA
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South African studentsOctober 11 was International Day of the Girl Child, this years theme is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce” and it marks the beginning of a program designed to expand learning opportunities for girls.  

Earlier this month I spent time in Geneva at the Global Sustainable Aviation Summit. With a refreshingly diverse series of speakers and panelists, the event really got me thinking about the UN sustainable goal of gender equality and what actions need to be taken to ensure more women have the opportunity to  enter and rise within the aviation sector.

ZimbabweA highlight was hearing from Capt. Aysha Alhameli, she started in civil aviation early, and aged 16 became the first female pilot in the UAE. She is one of only 5.5% of pilots worldwide who are women. Another was the inspiration behind pilot Shaesta Waiz’s Dreams Soar initiative, where as the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe in a single engine aircraft she travelled to introduce the next generation, particularly young girls to STEM subjects. The future is looking more promising with female student pilots now making up more than 10% of their classes in the US, the Netherlands, Japan, Belgium, Switzerland, India, Canada, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Panama, Indonesia and Sweden. Standing out of the crowd is Singapore, where 23.3% of student pilots are women according to the Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders 2018 report.

Of the 1 billion young people – including 600 million adolescent girls – that will enter the workforce in the next decade, more than 90% of those living in developing countries will work in the informal sector, where low or no pay, abuse and exploitation are common says the UN. Our goal with the SITA Foundation and via our funding of computer labs, ICT teachers and engineering students is to ensure these girls know about their options and have the opportunity to realize them.

Academia Primary South Africa51.4% of our projects benefit girls and spending time with these girls gives me great optimism for the next generation. Women university students in both South Africa and Zimbabwe are benefiting from the SITA Foundation and many have expressed clear ideas on how they are going to impact technology and aviation in their countries once they graduate.

At a recent SITA computer lab launch it was clear the young girls intuitively knew exactly what to do when logging onto their new computers for the first time. With equal access to technology from a young age future generations will surely be able to break the gender gap.

University of Zimbabwe StudentsIn Zimbabwe 30 predominantly women teachers recently graduated their ICDL certificate, enabling them to teach ICT in their schools for the first time and making them role models for the girls they teach.

In India SITA is funding infrastructure at many girls secondary schools and we hope to see many of these women in skies, a distinct possibility for them in a country where already over 10% of pilots are women.

I believe both strong women role models and access to education will ensure the next generation of girls make the statistics on gender equality look a lot different to how they do today. I am proud to be able to associate the foundations work with this year’s International Day of the Girl theme “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce”. And, more so I am proud to be a women able to provide vital skills to girls  and future aviators via our SITA Air Transport Community Foundation projects.

Related Information

Learn more about SITA Air Transport Community Foundation projects.

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