Aviation Safety could benefit from Diversity and Bias Training

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Interesting article on value of DIVERSITY

Aviation Safety can benefit from UNCONSCIOUS BIAS TRAINING

Report from South Africa on successful WOMEN airport executives

Diversity, discrimination, bias/unconscious and other terms that are expected from the HR department. The below article makes the case that these elements impact aviation safety.

Also, a writer in South Africa highlights women who are succeeding there.


Other Voices: The Link Between Diversity and Aviation Safety

by Kimberly Perkins and Arpad Szakal


– August 7, 2020, 11:02 AM





Aviation safety is dependent on synergy, not just in the flight deck, but within the flight department as a whole. The hidden dangers of miscommunication and unconscious bias deteriorate our safety margins, limit our access to new talent, and hinder our operational functionality.  It’s time for the third wave of aviation safety, and that must include unconscious bias training.

CRM pilots

Following a series of fatal air crashes in the 1970s, the aviation industry became focused on how humans interact and communicate. A common trend of these crashes exposed the toxicity of the singular-captain mentality and revealed the necessity to educate aviators how to operate more collaboratively.  New training protocols, known as Crew Resource Management (CRM), rapidly washed over the industry and became the international standard still in practice today.  The initiative was so successful that the medical sector adopted its own form of CRM.


The second wave of aviation safety came decades later in the form of Safety Management Systems (SMS).  This system is a comprehensive approach to safety which includes human factors training and the measuring of one’s flight department safety culture.

Each wave of safety system amalgamates the importance of human interaction, communication, and collaboration as essential components to aviation safety. Yet both systems overlook the fundamental structure that controls how humans interact and communicate—our unconscious bias.


Unconscious Bias



Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, is commonplace. We all have it. Despite the negative connotation around the concept, not all biases are bad. In fact, biases can be helpful. It’s how we can quickly determine categories for safety: pet the house cat and leave the lion. That being said, biases formulated through societal and cultural influences can lead to the mischaracterization of a group or the perpetuation of outdated models. When this happens, our ability to interact collaboratively is diminished and safety is compromised.

Unchecked unconscious bias can morph into discrimination, which results in a structure inherently unwelcoming to those that don’t fit a specific default standard. Recent aviation research revealed that bias and discrimination were significant barriers in both the recruitment and retention of women in aviation. Unchecked bias results in a highly homogenized industry, which diminishes aviation’s ability to innovate and collaborate, and it ultimately deteriorates safety.

Research shows that groups with diverse backgrounds are more creative and yield higher earning potential. Further research revealed evidence that when these groups operated in a collaborative way, they made better decisions. In aviation, better decisions mean increased safety.

The third wave of aviation safety must include unconscious bias training and coaching. Aviation regulatory bodies, trade associations and their leaders must demand this. Without understanding how our bias is negatively impacting our industry, we will be limiting our own success. Unchecked bias has the immediate effect of deteriorating safety culture and the perpetual consequence of restricting the industry’s access to a diverse talent pool.


In the recruitment, hiring, and promotion of individuals, unconscious bias can negatively affect the organization as a whole. We see this occur in other industries. When musicians auditioned behind a screen concealing their gender, it increased a female musician’s likelihood to advance by 30 percent. Accessing the top talent, those best for a job, will require hiring managers and leaders to question their hiring practices. To really understand where biases may be affecting the recruitment and retention of talent, organizations need to become educated on unconscious bias and use this lens to analyze structure and policy.

Unconscious bias exists even if a business genuinely pursues more diversity in its hiring process. Leaders and hiring executives might not be able to completely discard their unconscious bias. Therefore, education and the practice of recognizing unconscious bias is the preliminary step. Through unconscious bias training, coaching, and the process of implementing blind recruitment practices, leaders can ensure they are not limiting their own access to top talent.

The training is needed not just at the executive level of an organization, but throughout the flight department and inside the flight deck. Understanding our biases through unconscious bias training and coaching will allow us to work in a more collaborative way, become more efficient and productive. Most importantly, it’s a necessary step for aviation safety.



Women flying high in aviation industry at King Shaka International AirportKIng Shaka International Airport

By Lethu Nxumalo  Aug 9, 2020

Lethu Nxumalo






Durban – Superwomen in the aviation industry will today be celebrating the strength and courage of women who fought with their blood, time and tears for the freedoms enjoyed by all today. Playing essential roles at King Shaka International Airport, Nokuthula Mcinga, Azwifaneli Mphaphuli and Amanda Khwela all agree that the past struggles laid the foundation for all women today.

Nokuthula Mcinga.

Mcinga, senior operational governance manager, joined the airport as an environmental specialist. But when the organisation went through restructuring, she was promoted to her current role. Her experience in safety, risk and environmental management made her the right person for the job.


“My role includes provision of assurance to business operations in areas of governance, risk, airport safety, environment, aviation security and compliance. It is also aimed at ensuring standards and regulations are adhered to and maintained,” she said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to plan a day, as the aviation environment is dynamic, highly regulated and very exciting.”

For Mcinga, Women’s Day is for celebrating the achievements of women and their contributions in shaping society and the world politically, culturally, economically, and socially.

“Women are a cornerstone of every part of society and while having to deal with issues of gender injustice, violence, inequality and sex discrimination. This is then a day for acknowledging women’s contribution and successes.”

Mcinga said the soaring number of gender-based violence incidents was disheartening.

“At times I feel as a society, we fail each other as some of these killings could be avoided by doing the right thing, standing up and encouraging victims to speak out without fear of stigma and judgement.”

Mcinga said legislation alone won’t prevent gender-based violence, but there needs to be proactive strategies that involve the public.



Azwifaneli Mphaphuli.

Mphaphuli, an assistant general manager in the client and passenger services department, is responsible for driving programmes that improve and enhance service quality. She had always dreamt about becoming a pilot when she was younger but sees her role in the organisation as “meant to be”.

“The aviation industry never ceases to amaze me, it is complex and there is so much to learn, no one day is the same. It is full of ‘aha!’ moments,” she said.

On a typical day, Mphaphuli chairs meetings with various teams on assigned projects, attends presentations, stakeholder meetings and also conducts analysis on performances. She encouraged young women who aspire to work in her industry to take every opportunity that they are exposed to and to use it to learn new things.

Khwela, senior human resources manager, said the day to celebrate women was important as it acknowledged how far we have come as a country.





Amanda Khwela.

“We are honouring the heroines who paved the way for us but, most importantly, honouring the queens that make daily sacrifices to raise families, pursue careers and are pillars within society,” she said.

Khwela said her strategic role in the organisation required her to assist the business to achieve its goals. She said this was partly achieved by working together with business leaders to deliver customised and forward-looking solutions, programmes and policies.


planes and people


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