Three women — who each took very different paths into the fast-paced aerospace industry — reveal how they have challenged the status quo over the course of their careers.
Airworthiness Engineer, Airbus
Aoife is a Continued Airworthiness Engineer, based in Filton, near Bristol, investigating potential safety-related issues with aircraft in production and in service. She joined Airbus in 2007 on a Graduate Programme, and her career has taken her to the company’s headquarters in Toulouse, among other places. She is the mother of two children.
Flexibility has been really important to me as a working mum.
During my career I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in aircraft testing which is so exciting. It can also be emotional when you’re standing on the runway watching a plane you’ve worked on take off on its maiden flight. This industry is so varied, though. At the other end of the scale I’ve worked in customer service engineering. That’s a very reactive job, because it’s about helping airlines improve their service to their customers.
Before I had children, I thought I could manage a full-on family life and a career. Then I had children and realised it’s hard work! I currently work a four-day week, which gives me time to spend with my kids. It’s a hybrid working arrangement, too, which gives me more control over my work-life balance. Flexibility has been really important to me as a working mum.
Head of A330 Assembly & Equipping, Airbus
Devon has always had a keen interest in aviation and joined Airbus as an Undergraduate Apprentice in 2011. She is now the Head of A330 Assembly & Equipping, based in Broughton, North Wales, responsible for leading a 160-strong team that produces the wings for A330 aircraft.
The moment I started my apprenticeship, I felt I’d come home. It is a male-dominated industry — when I joined, there were just a handful of women apprentices in my year — but, honestly, that’s never fazed me.
I don’t feel I’ve encountered many challenges as a woman in STEM; although a few people have said to me: ‘I thought you only got this role because you were female. Now I can see it’s because you’re good at what you do.’ While I enjoy knocking down those walls, it shows there are still perceptions and biases — not always intentional — that women have to deal with.
The more female role models we have in positions like mine, the better it will be. Certainly, the number of female apprentices and graduates has grown significantly during my time at Airbus, because the company is continually reaching out to capable women to highlight the range of career opportunities on offer.
Head of Transversal Solutions & Product Management, Airbus
Lucinda studied at the LSE and then served in the Royal Navy for five years. She has been with Airbus for 22 years in a range of roles and is currently Head of Transversal Solutions & Product Management, based in Stevenage, leading a team of 28 product and solution experts.
I don’t come from a science background. I dropped chemistry, physics and biology at school and studied social sciences at university. But you don’t have to be an engineer to be an engineering leader. My current role involves managing our R&D budget and facilitating the brilliant experts in my team.
I feel as though I’ve challenged the status quo during my career. First, I’ve shown that it’s possible to be a leader in the defence industry, be married to someone who is on deployment with the Navy for months at a time and bring up a family. Also, it’s not unusual for me to be the only woman in the room, either; but — perhaps due to my military background — that’s never bothered me.
Plus, I’ve helped push boundaries by progressing women in my team and recruiting superb female talent, who I fully expect to leapfrog me on the career ladder!