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The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) on June 23 approved four recommendations to adopt gender-neutral language for the drone community, signaling a shift away from gendered terms that have been used for decades.
During a Feb. 24 meeting of the DAC, a sub-group was tasked with exploring the viability of using more inclusive language in the FAA’s policies, documents, and public correspondence. The task-group’s goal in supporting this research was to encourage a more diverse set of individuals interested in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry, said Trish Gilbert, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and co-chair of the task-group.
In total, four recommendations were made from the group that, upon approval, were forwarded to the FAA at-large for further implementation. They include adopting gender-inclusive language wherever possible, implementing it via a standardized style guide, applying it effectively, and then transforming communication for the broader aviation industry. This shift, for example, will allow the FAA to change traditionally gendered terms such as “airman” to something more neutral, such as “aviator.”
The announced recommendation comes as more data shows that women are severely under-represented in the aviation industry. Currently, just 6.7 percent of the current registered FAA drone pilots are women.
In 2020, when the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) held its annual scholarship program for pilots looking to obtain a primary license, 27 percent of the winners were female-identifying. In 2021, when the association increased outreach efforts to women’s aviation organizations and other traditionally under-represented groups, the number jumped to 44 percent, according to data provided by AOPA to the DAC.
This move towards gender-inclusive language could help create a more diverse talent pool for the emerging drone industry, said Michelle Schwartz, chief corporate strategy and affairs officer at Los Angeles World Airports. “Attracting and retaining people regardless of gender or gender identity is crucial so that the drone industry does not face the same labor shortages that are currently affecting the broader aviation industry,” she said.