FAA looks to adopt gender-neutral language in policies and procedures

Avatar for Jen NevansBy Jen Nevans | October 28, 2021

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 13 seconds.

In an effort to shift away from gendered terms and encourage a more diverse set of individuals to join the aviation industry, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will host a virtual Inclusive Language Summit in November. 

Female drone operator
The FAA is seeking to replace gendered terms like “unmanned aircraft system” with more neutral ones like “drone.” Nalinee Supapornpasupad/iStock Photo

The agency announced the upcoming event at its recent Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) meeting when the FAA shared recommendations it received that support the adoption of gender-neutral and inclusive language across the aviation community.  

Earlier this year, the FAA tasked a DAC sub-group to explore the viability of using more inclusive language in FAA’s policies, documents, and public correspondence, and provide recommendations that organizations across the industry can implement.  

“We really appreciate this, and the level of thought that this sub-group applied to the task was really amazing,” said Abby Smith, executive director of aviation policy and plans at the FAA, during the DAC meeting. “We understand how complicated the topic is and acknowledge the research and attention to detail the DAC put into this recommendation was quite tremendous.” 

DAC’s four recommendations include adopting gender-neutral language, implementing a standardized style guide, applying the style guide effectively in all new documents and materials while reworking existing documents, and expanding this communication to the broader aviation industry.  

Smith said many of the terms the DAC proposed are not new words in aviation. One of the proposed changes includes replacing “unmanned aircraft system” (UAS) with “uncrewed aircraft system” in the short term, and then pushing for “drone” to be used as the appropriate term for UAS in the long term. Other proposed changes within the report include replacing “repairman” with “technician,” and “airman” with “aviator.” 

“In order to pull this off, we need everyone to work together,” said Smith, adding that diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical building blocks for unleashing and maximizing innovation. “Embracing diversity and inclusion is going to have a significant impact in bringing all the voices into the conversation. It is really going to take all of us [working together].” 

The FAA is hosting the virtual Inclusive Language Summit as the first major step to bring everyone to the table to discuss adopting gender-neutral and inclusive language.   

The summit will take place on Nov. 10 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET, and will be livestreamed on FAA’s Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter channels. The FAA is looking for all members of the public to participate. This includes stakeholders in public agencies, academia, not-for profit institutions, individuals working in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and the aerospace community.  

Registration is not required, and summit attendees will be able to ask questions, comment on DAC’s recommendations, and provide additional input to the FAA during the event. Written comments or recommendations can be sent to DEIA@faa.gov no later than Nov. 30, 2021. Comments from the summit will help expand on the work already done in this area and assist the FAA in developing policies and procedures that are inclusive.  

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