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A Co-Chair's Vision for the Charter: Sophie Thomas, Industry Co-Chair

I volunteered to act as the Industry Co-Chair for the Women in Defence Charter because I believe the Charter will help defence to make much needed progress in gender diversity.

Whilst the existing gender imbalance continues, the sector is missing out on a diversity of opinions, approaches and dynamics, and women across the UK are missing out on exciting and rewarding careers in defence.

At Airbus we care passionately about gender balance, and are proud to be at the forefront of this topic. My role as the Industry Co-Chair of the Charter is to ensure that industry is appropriately represented within the Charter governance and activities, and I work closely with my co-chairs to ensure this.

For me, there are three key elements to the Charter’s success. Firstly, it generates impetus and visibility on this important topic. Secondly, it holds the member organisations to account publicly, helping to maintain the momentum and drive change. Thirdly, it provides a forum to share best practice across the sector, so we can learn from each other.

After the huge success of our launch in 2019, 2020 will be critical for our progress. Will we truly make a difference, or will the Charter simply becomes a forgotten piece of paper, consigned to the proverbial bottom drawer. I intend to do everything I can do to ensure that we continue the momentum together and see genuine progress.

In early 2020, we plan to hold our first Women in Defence Charter Conference, where we will bring together all the signatories of the Charter to share progress on our work stream activities and to shape our activities for the next 12 months. I am particularly looking forward to the opportunity this event will give us to exchange on the focused interventions that our signatories are pursuing to drive change in their own organisations, and to discussing our plans to attract more organisations to join and contribute to the momentum: together we have a much louder voice. 

Later in 2020, we will see our first report on the progress of our signatories against the targets they have set themselves. We recognise the diversity of the sector and that each organisation has its own starting point: what unites us all is the acknowledgment that more needs to be done to improve the gender balance, and our public commitment to take active steps to address it.

Here’s to 2020 and to starting to deliver on the Charter commitments.