IAWA Women Aviation Leaders Europe Forum – November 19, 2018 – 9:45am–5:00pm | Location: Aéro-Club de France, Paris (France)

By Dr. Cordula Barzantny, TBS – Nov. 23, 2018

On Monday 19th November, 2018, the first IAWA Women Aviation Leaders Forum was held in Aéro-Club de France in Paris. https://iawa.org/event/europe-forum/

Organized with Keynotes and Panels on Aviation in Europe, New Ventures Financing, Consolidation of the Aerospace Industry in Europe and Gender Equality and Human Talent this first IAWA Europe event united representatives from international organisations such as RATP, ADP/Decaux, Aéroport de Toulouse, IATA, Airbus, Boeing, Safran Group, STELIA Aerospace, Transavia, Worldbank, Rolls-Royce, Latécoère, Air France KLM, Thales, Skyteam, Cingeto, EasyJet, Claveaux Consulting, AIAC Group, Doric Partners and Amedeo.

Panelists and keynote speakers were also from the French Government and the European Commission. Around 60 representatives from a wide range of aviation companies and organisations attended and had great opportunities for exchanges and networking.


The day began with an informal breakfast in the Salons of Aéro-Club de France, generously supported by sponsors Airbus, Bird & Bird, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, DLA Piper and Stelia.

Katherine Bennett, SVP Airbus in the UK, OBE, and the IAWA Regional President Europe- Asia-Pacific.

Katherine Bennett, SVP Airbus in the UK, OBE, and the IAWA Regional President Europe- Asia-Pacific.

The welcome was pronounced by Katherine Bennett, SVP Airbus in the UK, OBE, and the IAWA Regional President Europe- Asia-Pacific.

The Opening Keynote address (on behalf of Florence PARLY, the French Minister of the Armed Forces) was given by

IGHCA  Monique LEGRAND-LARROCHE, CEO- New Direction de la Maintenance Aéronautique, French Armed Forces Ministry

Monique has a core objective to educate and promote at least 10% of Women General Officers within the ministry of the Armed Forces by 2022. In the military, there is no glass ceiling today and women can make careers as men.

Inspiring Model

The key-note address was followed by an open conversation with Catherine Guillouard, CEO RATP (“Inspiring Model” and supervisory board member of ENGIE and Airbus) in discussion with IAWA members Claire Nurcombe, STELIA Aerospace, and Anne-Pascal Guedon, Airbus.

Catherine Guillouard underlined that women should pursue their professional interest and excel in their assignments and projects without being bothered to be a ‘numerical’ minority in certain professional environments.

One important lesson is the desirable solidarity and mutual support among women that is important to advance careers as well as mentorship.

Her advice to women: Be confident and trust in yourself, do not question your abilities, just do your job!

The EU Transport Commissioner Mrs Violeta Bulc sent her best regards and strong encouragements for the first IAWA Europe Forum through a video message.

11:30 AM Panel I – Aviation in Europe: Where are we heading?

11:30 AM Panel I – Aviation in Europe: Where are we heading?

This panel, moderated by IAWA member Catherine Bras of Airbus gave voice to five Aviation leaders and their current challenges.

The buffet lunch was generously sponsored by Dassault Aviation and gave excellent occasions to get to know each other in a relaxed setting on the elegant premises of Aero-Club de France.

Early afternoon the second panel on New Venture Financing in Aerospace got on stage. Moderated by Anne-Pascal Guedon, Airbus, the panel gave an interesting world tour on aerospace projects from infrastructure by established companies to new electronic applications in startup mode and how to raise funding for various kinds of new ventures.

13:30 PM Panel II – New ventures Financing in Aerospace

13:30 PM Panel II – New ventures Financing in Aerospace

Specialist from the Worldbank, various investment and funding organization as well as large aerospace corporate ventures’ experts discussed how to make inclusive projects and innovation in the aerospace sector happen. The highly competitive environment stimulates dynamism and agile transformation in the industry. Furthermore, startups are shaking and disrupting the established large company business. Short and rapid decision making processes are requested for any organization’s agility in the sector. Since attracting and retaining talent in aviation is identified as a strategic challenge, this may lead to more visibility for women in this sector as well as enhanced training and development opportunities for women!

Also, more women should ask for project funding.

14:30 PM Panel III – Consolidation of the Aerospace Industry in Europe

14:30 PM Panel III – Consolidation of the Aerospace Industry in Europe

The panel on the Consolidation of the Aerospace Industry in Europe was moderated by Oriel Petry of the British Embassy in Paris.

Again, highly experienced women leaders of the European Aerospace industry shared their experience and gave critical insights into the past and recent developments in this highly competitive context with an animated discussion and questions by the audience.

One of the core questions should always be how to create value for the industry.

We need agility and innovation to solve customers’ needs in a highly competitive environment with efficient solutions and partnerships.

It also seems important to bridge the gap with research universities to leverage advanced partnership in some sort of ”pre-startup mode”.

Another important question managers and corporate leaders must answer is: How to keep the spirit of entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship (!) and innovation?

15:30 PM Panel IV- Gender equality and Human Talent

15:30 PM Panel IV- Gender equality and Human Talent

This last panel of the day discussed gender equality and human talent with a focus on women careers. Introduced by Zoe Layden, MD Claveaux Consulting, all panel members witnessed their own experience and observations of women careers in the aerospace industry.
It is generally acknowledged that women must prove themselves more than men in any professional aspect. Furthermore, in organizations they are less exposed to challenges and assignment to gain visibility. Unconscious biases still prevail.
Women should choose educational degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to get more access to the aerospace sector.
They bring more value to companies, which is corroborated by corporate performance measures of Executive Boards with more women participation.
When women start their careers in many areas they enter in rather equal numbers than men, but the first promotion is making the difference where many women loose out. There is the need to educate hiring managers for the long-term to fight unconscious bias and to support diversity and equality.
Importance of role models for women: Gender should not be a de-selection criteria for challenging business positions. Women can do the job as men and only competence should count.


Inclusiveness with a more feminine model needs to be promoted to create a more inclusive society. There is still work to be done but women and men take this challenge. Setting role models in Aerospace for girls and young women in primary schools already leads the way to enter STEM education. Mentoring and networking are important vectors of women executive development and support a natural mix of equal men and women participation in the workplace.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.