Building a mentoring scheme to support professional women in aviation and aerospace

Project summary

Why a mentoring scheme for women in aviation and aerospace?

A mentor has relevant knowledge and experience, and works on a short or long term basis with a mentee to give advice, guidance and support to assist the mentee's career, learning and development.

The aviation and aerospace industry is of critical importance to the UK, in terms of contribution to GDP and employment but continues to face a skills shortage (RAeS 2009). Women comprise just 6.9% of engineers in the UK (WISE 2012), are much less likely to graduate with a degree in aerospace engineering than in other engineering subjects (EngineeringUK 2013) and comprise just 4% of commercial and RAF pilots (RAeS 2009). Addressing this under representation of women would help to meet the chronic skills shortage in the industry (RAeS 2009).

One way to improve the recruitment and retention of women in this industry is for organisations to offer support to its female professionals, through mentoring. The aim of this project was to design and set up a mentoring scheme, the first of its kind within the industry, that meets the needs of women professionals. The partner organisations recognised the need for mentoring support for their professional female employees.

What were the objectives of the project?

This evolving and unique knowledge exchange network drew upon the knowledge and expertise of female academics, professionals and senior managers. The project was built upon four key objectives:

  • To create an integrated sector based approach to the issue of the recruitment, retention, development and progression of women in aviation and aerospace.
  • To design, build and review a mentoring scheme, specifically based upon the identified needs of female professionals (through a survey and face-to-face interviews with female professionals in the industry) and ‘best practice’.
  • To design and deliver a training scheme for potential mentors and mentees and build mentoring into yearly performance reviews for mentors and mentees.
  • To sustain the mentoring scheme through the partnership built up through the knowledge exchange programme.

How and when was the scheme launched?

The alta mentoring scheme was officially launched at the prestigious RAeS Women in Aviation & Aerospace Annual Conference in London on 30 October 2015.

Next steps

Based on the findings from the research, the next stage of the alta programme is for the UWE team to run mentor and mentee training for women from the RAeS, Airbus, and RAF. UWE will also be working with the RAeS to  develop an online platform for mentor/mentee matching and online training, with plans to roll out the scheme to the wider aerospace and aviation industry after the first year.

As a professional woman, we would like to hear your views on the project and the mentoring scheme. Please e-mail

Contact us

Dr Sue Durbin
Bristol Business School
University of the West of England
Frenchay Campus
Coldharbour Lane
BS16 1QY
Tel: +44 (0)117 32 83239


Project partners

UWE Bristol Royal Air Force
AIRBUS Royal Aeronautical Society
ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) logo


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