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In the modern period, women have dominated the aviation sector. They are shattering records for altitude, endurance, and speed. Today, in a special interview with ALM, we speak with Ms. Fiona Omondi, the Women in Aviation International-Kenya Chapter co-founder, who shares with us more about her passion for aviation and the steps she has taken to guarantee that women in the industry continue to shatter glass ceilings.



As a co-founder of Women in Aviation International- KENYA Chapter, kindly give us some insights into what gaps the organization tries to address.


Ms. Fiona Omondi: Kenya chapter of Women in Aviation, International. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing networking, education, mentoring, and scholarship opportunities for women striving for challenging and fulfilling careers in the aviation and aerospace industries.


We give the members scholarships through our mother Company Women in Aviation International, which helps students advance their Aviation training, be it in flying or engineering, which supports growth and development for its members throughout their career journey.


The chapter offers a networking platform for women in the industry, enabling members to get job connections. Through our networking events, members and nonmembers can find mentors willing to advise, guide, or walk with the members through their career journey.


We also host educational fairs, workshops, and exhibitions, to create career and STEM awareness. My favorite Chapter activity is Education outreach, where we visit different girls’ schools and help demystify the Aviation industry while exposing them to the vast career options available in the industry while encouraging the girls to take up STEM courses; this exercise is usually crowned yearly by an event dubbed as Girls In Aviation Day (GIAD), which takes place every September where we facilitate a maximum of 100 girls for an Aviation education tour where they get to see firsthand how the airport and airline work.


We cannot be blind to what happens in our society, so the chapter also participates in community events and CSR activities to bring positive change.


People will like to know What was the primary driving force behind Co-founding this organization?


Ms. Fiona Omondi: My father has worked in the aviation industry for more than 40 years. Growing up, he always brought us delicious pastries from NAS, a catering company at JKIA. I especially loved the marble and fruit cake. So there were days he would drive us to the airport to buy the pastries; during our runs, I got exposed to the aviation industry at a very young age, where my interest and passion for aviation was ignited. Growing up, I wanted to be an aviator like my father.


After high school, he guided me on which courses I should take to join the industry. I am fortunate to have had a mentor throughout my career journey.


My motivation to co-found the organization was to provide learners with a channel where they could be guided in this industry; we did that by generating a database of professionals who would help us create awareness and provide mentorship to students and women looking to join Aviation by sharing the information about the different career options in the industry and the STEM courses one had to study. Back then, people needed help figuring out where to go for such information.


WAI-Kenya also provides women and some men Aviators and aspiring aviators with a platform where they meet, make friendships, and have fun while building connections with the right people, taking their careers to the next level. WAI-Kenya is also my way of giving back to the community.


Women account for about 5% of professional pilots and 3% of airline CEOs worldwide. That is according to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISWAP). Please let me know what could be behind this underrepresentation.


Ms. Fiona Omondi: Pilots originated from the military, where women were excluded for many decades; in addition, the reluctance of some airlines to recruit women pilots are two historical reasons for the low number of women pilots. But as I journey in my career, I understand that the real obstacle is lack of awareness. Many young girls and women need to be made aware of the vast career opportunities in the Aviation Industry.


It is essential to understand that all this is a reflection of how a girl is brought up in our society; girls are taught how to be good homemakers, leading to fewer women pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), where boy child is considered to be better at.


Without any STEM training, the girl child is disadvantaged during recruitment for technical jobs. Those women who are considered “lucky” to undergo training and secure jobs in the industry and aspire to be female leaders are undeniably met with Biases and stereotyping during interviews, promotions, and training opportunities. For instance, while compassion and empathy are typically viewed as feminine traits, competitiveness, assertiveness, and confidence are often associated with men.


Female leaders who exhibit some of these traits are often viewed as antagonistic. Work-life and family-life balance is also one of the reasons women give up their careers in the industry; balancing the two can be daunting, not to mention the mandatory recurrent rigorous professional training aviators go through frequently.


Another noteworthy point is that women may also harbor doubts about applying for senior positions or technical jobs when they feel they do not meet the requirements 100%, while men, on the other hand, always seize the opportunity.


How, in your opinion, can gender equity be accomplished in the aviation industry?


Ms. Fiona Omondi: I always say in everything we do to accomplish it, we must be INTENTIONAL; leaders cannot participate and not in the intention. When discussing gender equality, it’s not about organizations creating policies to tick the box and then shelving them to gather dust. The purpose is informed by Policy and Infrastructure.

Policy without supporting infrastructure will not work; these two go hand in hand; when a woman is promoted, the senior management should ensure she has the proper supporting infrastructure to perform her duties in her new capacity. This includes the need to include gender and diversity in an organization’s strategic planning; probably the most important is the presence of female role models at the highest corporate level to provide the coaching, mentorship, and grooming that future female leaders need.


Top management in organizations should commit to sensitizing employees through awareness training and brainstorming sessions to help them understand, eliminate or mitigate biases and stereotypes during recruitment, promotions, and training opportunities, to increase the talent pool of women. Organizations should also encourage and prepare women for senior management positions through training, shadowing, fostering coaching, and mentoring with a keen eye on gender equality and share best practices which include policies that encourage work and life balance; for instance, there should be a plan on how women who decide to start a family on their return from maternity leave, seamlessly get back into the system so that they do not feel neglected and that their career has come to a standstill…

We should Increase outreach to girls on STEM, with a focus on technical studies, exposing the girl child from a young age to these subjects leads to them taking up aviation careers. At home and in schools, teachers, parents and guidance should affirm to the girl child that they are equal to their male counterparts and capable of taking up STEM subjects and joining and succeeding in technical careers.

The stakeholders in the aviation sector should work towards promoting the industry to youth, facilitating access to education by ensuring equal opportunity for girls and boys. These are attractive measures to attract and retain women in aviation and STEM-related careers.




What efforts have you made to achieve gender equity in the aviation industry?


Ms. Fiona Omondi: They say charity begins at home; as the Head of Business Strategy and Sustainability at Tradewinds Aviation Services Ltd, a Ground Handling Company Headquartered at JKIA, Tradewinds is a very highly male-dominated company due to the nature of business. One of my primary responsibilities toward gender equality and sustainability is to sensitize and create awareness among the management team that women too can work in some departments considered ‘male’ jobs. Encouraging and promoting more women to be employed and promoted to leadership positions, and pushing for higher numbers of women representation in departments considered ‘women friendly’ Collecting company data on gender representation and monitoring the numbers to ensure we maintain acceptable ratios according to our policy.

Since employees work on shifts, I also pushed for women not to immediately get back on change once they report back from maternity, which has allowed new mothers to bond more with their bundle of joy; this has significantly reduced stress levels in new moms, which has, in turn, improved their productivity.

I have continuously spoken about gender diversity at major international conferences.

Under the WAI-Kenya umbrella, is where we demystify the aviation industry by doing a lot of mentoring of young girls to take up careers in the aviation industry. Access to civil aviation is a challenge, and training for technical skills for different jobs is quite expensive; WAI-Kenya provides women with scholarships through our mother organization, which helps motivate more girls from marginalized and disadvantaged backgrounds to join the industry.


Okay. How far have you gone in achieving gender parity in the aviation industry?


Ms. Fiona Omondi: We have not scratched the surface yet, great strides have been made throughout the years, but we are far from achieving gender equality. It is challenging to transform something unknown/ a mystery or considered to be for the affluent. That’s why I have taken an INTENTIONAL decision to create awareness continuously.


But it is not all gloom and doom; there are some success stories that I must mention. Collins Aerospace- Morocco and the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) are organizations that have the 50- 50 gender rule policy and have achieved the same as we speak. SACAA has equally taken this cause further by ensuring that at the highest decision-making structures of the Regulator, women’s representation is 50/50.

This serves as another stride forward in transforming gender roles in leadership and the development of women.


One of the significant strides took place this year at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) 41st Assembly, where Ms. Poppy Khoza, the Director of Civil Aviation at the South African Civil Aviation Authority, was unanimously elected by the ICAO Member States to serve as President for the 41st Assembly that consists of delegates from 193 countries. It was a historic moment for ICAO to have elected the first woman President of the Assembly. This demonstrates that attaining gender equality is possible where organizations with senior management are committed and INTENTIONAL towards this course.


What is your call to the Kenyan government and international organizations at the moment?


Ms. Fiona Omondi: They should push for the implementation of policy and action plans on government legislation and organizational policies and advocate and demonstrate commitment from the top. The Kenyan government should also encourage organizations, whether in the public or private sector, to adopt the two-thirds gender rule. This will help close the gender gap.


The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority should commit to gender equality by encouraging stakeholders in the Aviation industry to sign up for the IATA 25by2025, where organizations commit to increasing female representation in senior roles in their organizations and in areas where women are traditionally under-represented.


Training for technical aviation skills is quite expensive, and I urge international organizations to make aviation training affordable for aspiring aviators. In addition, the Governments support aviation-related STEM programs by providing sponsorship or funding to young girls.


They encouraged States through the ministry of education and gender and the aviation industry to enhance the promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education for girls, as a means of increasing girls’ access to STEM education.


What message do you have for the new administration on gender inclusiveness in the aviation sector?


Ms. Fiona Omondi: Of course, the government has priorities of its own, primarily carried in its campaign manifestos. But I would use a platform such as this interview to urge our leaders to appreciate the importance of our Aviation industry and, by extension, to enjoy and consciously support our essential role within it.


Lastly, during my research, I learned that you are also the head of business strategy and sustainability. Talk to us about it.


Ms. Fiona Omondi: Aviation is a very dynamic industry that requires continuous improvement of an organization’s processes and procedures to remain relevant. As Head of Business Strategy and Sustainability, I oversee the development, dissemination, execution, and adoption of strategic initiatives at all levels of the department throughout the whole organization to attract new business.


As a key player in leading change management initiatives for the organization, with the help of the management team, I can create new business models, and design strategic roadmaps for innovation and commercial activities, while managing all company projects and partnerships. I also develop and implement the company’s sustainability strategies to benefit society and build positive stakeholder relationships whilst strengthening the company’s value chain and value proposition.


I love my job because it is challenging, which motivates me to read and research widely daily, which keeps me abreast with new developments and current affairs in Aviation Training, Ground Handling business, and the Aviation industry as a whole. However, I work in a male-dominated company which can be very challenging at times, especially now that we need a woman role model in senior management to mentor other women and me in the organization.


Due to this, I took it upon myself to champion the gender equality agenda in the organization through sensitization and policy development, a course I am very passionate about.


In conclusion, I would like to point out that this is not a war against men but a call for gender equality, and it’s essential to understand that women alone cannot achieve this goal. We need to work together with our male counterparts towards this course because we both have different strengths that, when brought, we can achieve more. It has been proven repeatedly that gender diversity positively impacts a company’s bottom line.


A New York Times article I read a while ago states that increasing the percentage of women from 0 – 30% in management positions directly impacts profitability by 15%. We have different organizations in the aviation industry, all working towards gender equality.


Our efforts should be merged and aligned towards supporting the global effort aimed at achieving the sustainable 2030 development agenda, particularly sustainable development number 5 on gender.


It is critical to our long-term success our agreed approaches seek to advocate for gender equality in Aviation among both governments and private sector air transport operators, and in each case, the need for high-level leadership to come up with STRONG and SUSTAINABLE commitments and policies in favour of gender equality that will cater to both existing and new entrants into the industry.

One of my favorite quotes is by Verna Myers “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”


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