Airbus supports women's empowerment and equality

International Women’s Day on 8 March celebrates progress towards gender equality, but it also reminds us that more needs to be done. Airbus is playing its part, for example through signing the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles. 

International Women’s Day was first celebrated 107 years ago and since then the world has seen women prime ministers, CEOs and astronauts. This global event now celebrates women’s achievements, while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality.

Commitment to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles

Since 1911 there has been an attitudinal shift, with more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights and initiatives such as the UN Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs), which offer guidance for business on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

The product of collaboration between UN Women and the UN Global Compact, they have now been signed by nearly 2,000 CEOs across the world. Tom Enders, Airbus CEO; Guillaume Faury, President Commercial Aircraft and Airbus Helicopters CEO (until 1 April); and Airbus Defence and Space CEO Dirk Hoke are among the WEP signatories, sending a clear message of support for equality and committment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Airbus’ statement endorsing UN WEP

I am committed to ensuring that, at Airbus, we encourage equality and empower women, by recognizing and promoting their strengths and added value. This is the way to leap forward and succeed together.

Airbus CEO Tom Enders

A leap forward for womankind

Despite this progress, women are still not paid equally compared to their male counterparts or present in equal numbers in business or politics (of the world’s 500 largest companies, there are only 13 female CEOs). By signing up to the WEPs, companies now have to ‘walk the talk’.

If women fully participated in formal labour markets, GDP would increase by $28 trillion

“The principles mean that we have to provide the leadership, training, professional development and practices that empower women,” says Andrea Debbane, head of Responsibility & Sustainability at Airbus. “Furthermore, we have to measure and then publicly report on progress towards gender equality.”

Inspiring women at Airbus









The gap is narrowing, slowly

The figures show that progress is being made. “At Airbus, between 2016 and 2017, 23% of employees promoted to senior manager positions or above were women against 16% in 2016 and, in non-production, external hires of women rose from 22% to 27%,” says Yoann Lacan, head of Inclusion and Diversity at Airbus. “That’s progress but the gap between men and women is narrowing very slowly.”

To further close that gap, Airbus promotes manufacturing functions through its PROW (Production Opportunities for Women) initiative. Furthermore its inclusion and diversity resource group ‘Balance for Business’ manages topics such as work-life balance, career development and increasing gender balance through equal employment opportunities.

Promoting a culture of speaking up also contributes to eliminating harassment, including gender discrimination. Airbus is promoting its OpenLine, though which employees can confidentially raise such concerns, as part of the zero-tolerance approach to harassment in the workplace.

Airbus also runs internal development programmes, invites students to its facilities and sponsors associations that support women in industry. 

See how Airbus is fostering quality education and inclusion 

One of these is the International Aviation Womens Association (IAWA). Its president, Alina Nassar, echoes Lacan’s words: “We have a shortage of skilled aviation professionals. Half the population is women, but we estimate that women in leadership roles in aviation and aerospace are closer to 10%. The industry is more equal, but we are far from being truly equal.”  

Until the exception becomes the norm

Strong female role models are one path towards greater parity, and something IAWA members strive to be. Airbus has 3 female Board of Directors members: Catherine Guillouard, Chief Executive Officer of RATP; 
Amparo Moraleda, Member of the Board of Directors of Solvey SA, CaixaBanc SA and Vodafone PLC; Claudia Nemat, Member of the Board of Management of Deutsche Telekom AG. 

With evidence of women’s contributions to economic development, change is on the agenda now as much as a century ago. Nassar believes we are going in the right direction. “We are bringing more women into industry and creating awareness on how women can contribute to aviation and progress. Having such awareness and people talking about these issues will facilitate change.”

"A diverse and equal workforce fosters productivity and innovation"

Interview with Vikram Jit Singh, Strategic Advisor, Private Sector Partnerships at United Nations, UN Women

Why is it important for large companies like Airbus to commit to the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs)?

Large companies are employers and occupy powerful positions in value chains. Therefore their policies and practices can impact their employees, suppliers and the community as a whole. Companies should adopt the WEPs to join the community impacting gender equality and women’s empowerment. It is good for business and for society.

The Principles holistically address key issues such as pay equity, gender-responsive supply chain practices, and sexual harassment in the workplace, for example.

According to WEP figures, eliminate the discrimination against female workers could boost productivity by up to 40%. Do you think addressing the gender gap has economic benefits?

Efforts to promote women’s economic empowerment that emphasise market-based approaches and economic gains go hand in hand with enabling women to realise their rights, because systematic discrimination against women constrains their full and equal participation in their economy.

Companies have a stake in addressing the pay gap if they want to realise the full benefits of more women entering the labour force, and also to encourage more women to enter the labour force, which leads to economic growth.

Companies will also benefit from increased consumer spending, a substantial portion of which is controlled by women. And they will benefit from a diverse and equal workforce, which fosters productivity, innovation and better performance.

Could you name some business practices that are impactful in terms of advancing gender equality and women's empowerment?

A recent (2016) Credit Suisse Research Institute study of more than 3,000 companies found that those with at least one female board director generated a compound excess return per annum of 3.5% since 2005 compared to companies with all-male boards.

In a survey of nearly 10,000 working age adults across Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, UK and the US, over 60% of millennials and around half of respondents older than 45 said that on-site childcare was important in a job. 

Addressing sexual harassment is essential to protect the rights and safety of women, but it can also lead to cost savings. One study estimated that sexual harassment costs a typical Fortune 500 company $6.7 million a year in absenteeism, low productivity, and employee turnover.

Finally, companies that institute affirmative supply chain policies stimulate increased opportunities for women entrepreneurs.


The #MeToo movement has raised awareness of sexual abuse and gender discrimination across the world. How would you value this movement?

Many women, including through the #MeToo campaign, have courageously raised their voices so sexual harassment in the workplace does not remain invisible. Men, too, have raised their voices in solidarity. However concrete action on the part of all stakeholders is required to make a difference in corporate culture. This means implementing policies to protect women at work, but also engaging men.



What are the Women’s Empowerment Principles?

  • Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Treat all women and men fairly at work - respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination
  • Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers
  • Promote education, training and professional development for women
  • Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  • Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
  • Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality

Watch the video: International Women’s Day 2018: The Time is Now

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