- Developed a female attraction strategy
- A dedicated micro-portal ‘Women at Airbus: Aircraft Fitters’
- Adoption of gender-neutral language
- Introduced a worker advocacy storytelling approach
- Created an open-minded recruitment strategy which includes transferrable skills
- Improved workplace inclusivity
Benefits to date
- Received 229 quality applications from female talent
- Female Aircraft Fitters now make up 23% of workforce, up from a starting point of 1%
- 35% of new hires into the aircraft fitter workforce are now female
- 96.7% retention of all female hires since the launch of campaign
“The female talent attraction campaign in partnership with Guidant Global has given us the opportunity to reflect on the way Airbus recruits and thinks about its Aircraft Fitter workforce. The increase in female applicants for these roles is helping us to bring about change, and the diversity of backgrounds in the business ensures we continue to challenge the way that we do things.” – Airbus.
To find out the full details of our inclusive recruitment strategy and campaign for Airbus download the full customer success story.
Aeroplane manufacturer Airbus has long taken pride in employing local workers at its Aircraft Fitter operation based in Broughton, Wales.
However, they are aware that the overwhelming amount of the Aircraft Fitter roles have been carried out by men.
It was determined at the beginning of 2022 to tap further into the local talent base and improve equality and diversity.
Working alongside outsourced recruitment partner Guidant Global, an advertising campaign was devised and launched, featuring female Airbus talent working on different aircraft within the manufacturing environment.
There were challenges including battling conscious and unconscious beliefs that manufacturing was a male only role and a perception amongst women that as such Airbus only welcomed male applications. Airbus, like the rest of the aviation industry, also had to tackle fears about the long-term impact of the Covid pandemic on demand and employment.
Guidant Global’s experience in developing leading and creative inclusive recruitment strategies overcame these barriers and helped Airbus welcome more high-quality female Aircraft Fitter talent.
The number of female workers within the Aircraft Fitter function of the business in Airbus Broughton had typically wavered around 1%, out of an approximate 500 strong workforce during pre-pandemic times.
This isn’t unusual in the wider aerospace and manufacturing sector where men are the dominant gender. However, it’s well below the 10% to 15% female representation seen in the wider UK engineering workforce.
Airbus set itself the goal of hitting not just that industry average for female representation in its manufacturing team at Broughton but going beyond it. It wanted to break away from traditional thinking around the role.
Guidant’s challenge therefore was to break new ground, hire more female workers and address those structural concerns around the future of the aviation sector.
Guidant Global designed an end-to-end talent attraction strategy and candidate journey, with an innovative approach of focusing on challenging stereotypes associated with the role of Aircraft Fitter. The campaign, including visuals of women in the role, ran for two weeks on channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Indeed.
The strategy included:
- Re-labelling the ‘Semi-skilled Aircraft Fitter’ role to ‘Entry-level Aircraft Fitter’. This offered more accuracy in line with the role and favourability amongst female talent.
- From job adverts to a dedicated ‘Women at Airbus: Aircraft Fitters’ micro portal, the entire campaign adopted gender-neutral language with a soft slant on feminine-associated words.
- The dedicated micro portal aimed to bring to life what working in the role at Airbus Broughton was like through stories from World War Two- where Broughton's 6,000 strong workforce were mostly women - to current-day female aircraft fitters.
- Blogs spotlighting women already working at Airbus as aircraft fitters were created to bring their experiences to life and combat misconceptions about the role.
- Female applicants in the pipeline are sent regular communications and individual check-ins to be kept engaged.
The recruitment teams worked with Airbus to create even more open-minded criteria. This included a bigger focus on transferrable skills to cater to female candidates with work experience that a large proportion of male applicants wouldn’t typically hold. This rang true , - a female candidate who was a hairdresser was put forward. The hiring team believed that the hands-on dexterity gained from hairdressing would be a good fit for the Aircraft Fitter role. She was successfully offered a position.
Guidant Global recruitment teams unconscious bias training, gaining skills to recognise and eliminate unconscious thinking patterns and discriminatory behaviour, helped bolster the strategy. The team dedicated as much time on the phone with candidates as possible to allay fears and answer questions about the role.
Creating a more inclusive workplace
It was also crucial to evolve the workplace environment to make it more inclusive for female staff, to aid recruitment and retention. Utilising the collective expertise of Guidant Global and Airbus the following changes were made:
- 35% of female hires are also working mothers and it was important to offer them shift flexibility to allow them to juggle both work and life commitments.
- The mandatory assessment test – which required fitting through small spaces – was adjusted to cater to women’s bodies. Those supervising these assessments were trained to support female candidates appropriately.
- Airbus Broughton introduced more female changing room facilities to allow greater convenience and accessibility.
- Female candidates are onboarded as a group to instil female empowerment and camaraderie. They’re kept in pairs to retain their support network upon completing training.
We immediately saw positive results in the number of females engaging with the Aircraft Fitter role.
A myriad of candidates, with a variety of skillsets and backgrounds, who would never have considered or felt comfortable applying prior to the campaign.
In addition, we noticed female applicants from big local competitors such as Rolls Royce, Vauxhall and Magellan.
One female Aircraft Fitter at Airbus Broughton said: “I didn’t think you actually employed females in the aircraft fitter roles and then I saw the Facebook advert and decided to apply.”
Between February 2022, and the close of 2022, Airbus received 229 quality applications from female jobseekers. As of December 2022, of the 308 aircraft fitters, 71 are female. Female representation in the aircraft fitter workforce is now at 23%, up from a 1% representation at the start of the campaign. 35% of new hires into the aircraft fitter workforce are now female. One out of every five of Aircraft Fitter hires since February 2022 have been female.
Retention has also been staggeringly impressive with 59 women taken on during the campaign remaining in the role as of January 2023.
This shows both the quality and accuracy of the attraction and advertising targeting, the care taken in the process and the benefits of making the workplace much more inclusive and engaging for female staff.
Another female Aircraft Fitter said: “I did have concerns about the environment potentially being a challenging one for women to feel comfortable in. But after joining I realised, I couldn’t have been more wrong! I feel right at home with the rest of my team and there isn’t anything I can’t do that my other teammates can.”
We’re still constantly receiving applications as word of mouth about the roles and the impact of our campaign keep spreading amongst the local community.
It’s vital therefore that continuous recruitment training such as keeping up to date with unconscious bias training is maintained. This will play a constant but important role in ensuring that the screening of applications is fair and equal.
We are also striving to create and roll out more blogs spotlighting female talent. This helps keep the female talent at Airbus engaged.
Feedback is also being consistently collected at every stage of the candidate journey. We work very closely with Airbus to improve all facets of the candidate process from application to aftercare.
Indeed, having more female workers in the role has made the working environment livelier and supportive. On new starter days trainers have noticed women supporting other fellow new starters with tips and encouraging words.
Read our approach to Beating Talent Scarcity in Aviation with Airbus here, Guidant Global's Adult Apprenticeship Scheme.