The co-chairs of the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter (WIAAC) will lead a panel at the General Aviation Leadership Forum from the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA) being held on 25th June 2020.

The Forum panel comprises of senior leaders from three of the WIAAC founding companies: Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Virgin Atlantic. The Steering Board is co-chaired by Katherine Bennett CBE, Senior Vice President at Airbus and the President Elect of IAWA, and Sumati Sharma CA, Vice President Special Projects at Virgin Atlantic. They will be joined on the panel by Jacqui Sutton, Chief Customer Officer – Civil Aerospace at Rolls-Royce.

The moderator of the panel will be journalist Liz Moscrop who reported for the BBC and Channel 4, wrote for The Times, The Telegraph and the Financial Times, and specialist aviation magazines including FlightGlobal, Arabian Aerospace and Inflight. She also headed up the UK chapter of Women in Aviation International, and now owns a video company dedicated to the aviation sector.

Sumati Sharma, Co-Chair of the WIAAC Steering Board, said: “The Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter is thrilled to be participating in the IAWA Forum and contributing to the vitally important issue of gender diversity in our sectors. It is crucial that we retain a strong focus on this as we address the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic as diverse, forward-looking and collaborative workforces will be a critical element in helping organisations to recover and face the future with confidence.”

René Banglesdorf, IAWA GA Committee Chair, added: “When women come together, something powerful happens. When we first conceived the idea of a virtual conference, we had no idea we would be able to assemble more than 100 female presenters and special guests. We can’t wait to see what happens when students and aviation professionals from all over the world are united by a common passion to see more women success stories in this industry. We are all inspired by the Charter and hope to carry forth that momentum with this event.”

The Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter aims to support the overall diversity of the sector and build a more balanced and fair industry. It looks to support the progression of women into senior roles in the aviation and aerospace sectors, and aspires to see gender balance at all levels across aviation and aerospace. It recognises that a balanced workforce is good for business – for customers and consumers, for profitability and workplace culture, and is increasingly attractive for investors. It now has more than 200 signatory organisations all of which have pledged their commitment to help make these aims a reality.

The General Aviation Leadership Forum, held by the International Aviation Women’s Association, is a full-day virtual event designed to connect, inspire and lead women across the globe. This all-aviation leadership event is exclusively organised and presented by women from industry-leading companies. The event will be held online in a 3D virtual conference hall, complete with an auditorium for live keynote presentations, interactive exhibition hall, networking lounge where participants can interact by text, audio or video chat, and on-demand panel presentations on 23 different topics.


About the Panellists:

Katherine Bennett CBE is a Senior Vice President of Airbus and has been with the company for 16 years. She leads the company’s external engagement and strategy in the UK and works closely with Global CEO, Guillaume Faury. Based out of London and Bristol, she has specific responsibility for Public Affairs for all parts of the Airbus company, which employs 14,000 people in the UK. In July 2018, she founded the UK’s Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter, which is committed to building a fair and balanced industry for women in this sector. She has also been instrumental in Women in Defence activity. She is President Elect of the International Aviation Women’s Association, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and Chair of Western Gateway.

Sumati Sharma has been at Virgin Atlantic for 16 years, and is Vice President – Special Projects, and previously held roles as VP – Product & Commercial in the Holidays division, VP – Strategy, and VP Financial Planning. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant, trained at EY in Scotland. Sumati is Co-Chair of the Women in Aviation & Aerospace Charter working towards gender equality. Since its inception, Sumati has encouraged more than 200 organisations to sign up and pledge commitment to ensuring gender balance. As a senior female leader of colour, Sumati uses her platform to play a key role on the Be Yourself Steering Committee at Virgin Atlantic, driving the diversity & inclusion strategy. Sumati has championed a data-led focus on measurement and target development, influencing the setting of published targets on women in leadership and BAME representation.

Jacqui Sutton is Chief Customer Officer – Civil Aerospace at Rolls Royce and has worked in the Aerospace industry since 1994 in a variety of strategic and commercial roles for leading players in the market. Jacqui joined Rolls-Royce aero engines in 2008 and now heads up the Civil Aerospace global customer team based in Derby, UK. In this dynamic role, Jacqui drives the vision and strategy behind the sales of engines and services as well as marketing and customer service delivery to airlines. Jacqui is passionate about supporting and mentoring the next generation of female leaders in the aerospace industry and is a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.