Aerospace has a way to go in becoming a welcoming environment for women, according to a new report.

A survey by Korn Ferry of more than 1,500 workers in the sector found that one-third of women feel they would need to change industries to advance their careers. Just 6% thought the representation of women had increased significantly in the past five years, according to the survey, commissioned by the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter, a two-year-old initiative to improve gender balance.

“This report provides us with a measure both of what has been achieved and of what remains to be done,” said charter co-chairs Sumati Sharma, a former Virgin Atlantic Airways executive, and Jacqueline Sutton, chief customer officer at Rolls-Royce Holdings. Companies need to recommit “to doing whatever is required to build the diverse and inclusive industry we not only want but need to see.”

The aerospace sector has long been male-dominated, with the military traditionally feeding pilots into airlines and just 18% of aerospace engineers female. As the pandemic requires many companies to focus on survival, there are fears diversity could slip down the agenda.

While the share of female pilots globally had grown to 5.3% this year from just 3% in 2016, the gains are at risk of being undone by the pandemic, according to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots.

Similar concerns exist throughout aerospace, with the Korn Ferry survey finding many feared investments in inclusion would be paused or removed and women would be more at risk of downsizing due to their relatively recent entry into certain roles.

The Korn Ferry report surveyed 1,528 people, of which 61% were female, 37% male and 2% didn’t disclose their gender. Respondents were largely from the aerospace and aviation industries, with 7% from defense and 28% in other roles.

The report found:

  • A majority (87%) of women surveyed and 63% of men thought the perception of a gender pay gap stops more women from joining the industry.
  • Men in aviation and aerospace were three times as likely as women to think the representation of women had significantly increased in the past five years (6% of females versus 18% of males).
  • Just 48% of female respondents in aerospace agreed that corporate leaders were committed to increasing the number of women in leadership roles, versus 70% of male respondents.
  • Less than half of female respondents working in the aviation (47%) and aerospace (44%) sectors said they had a female role model.