Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space’s push for greater equal opportunities

Successful careers for women in the space industry

On 8 March, women all over the world celebrate International Women’s Day, a date that for over a century has symbolised women’s struggle for equal rights in all walks of life.

The space industry is a sector that is still too heavily male-dominated in terms of workforce and structure. However, Airbus Defence and Space has distinguished itself by its efforts to increase the proportion of women in its engineering and technical activities. It is not so much that the women who work in the company who point to the blatant imbalance between numbers of men and women, but rather that the figures speak for themselves: it is a rare team, in the engineering and technical fields, where the proportion of women exceeds 7%.

“This is something we want to change in a big way in 2013,” says Ingo Giese, HR Director at Airbus Defence and Space’s Bremen site. “Women’s opportunities of getting a job or climbing the career ladder in the technical disciplines at Airbus Defence and Space are better than ever.”

This is the experience of two female engineers, Imen Hachani and Silvia Strom, both aged 30. There is no gender-based distinction whatsoever in the course of their everyday work, they say. They have not themselves encountered any prejudice, and they feel they have exactly the  same opportunities as their male colleagues. Professional competence is all that counts.


Imen Hachani (30) is an IT specialist working in Ground Support Systems at Airbus Defence and Space in Bremen. Imen Hachani left her native Tunisia for Germany nine years ago from Tunisia. “Germany is an industrially advanced country that offered me more and better opportunities to build on my computer science qualifications and to find a job doing something that really interested me,” She explains. She speaks perfect German, and is fluent in three other languages. She acquired German citizenship, completed her degree and is now a respected IT specialist in Ground Support Systems at Airbus Defence and Space in Bremen.

“I have a fascinating job, in an incredibly interesting company,” she says emphatically. How does she handle being the only female in her team? There is a hint of sharpness in her reply. “My manager would never dream of treating me any differently to my male colleagues, and neither would they.” “At the moment I’m concentrating on getting thoroughly expert in my field,” says Imen. “Hopefully I will be able to move into managerial roles within my department or even at company level. I’ll just take it one step at a time.”

Ingo Giese reiterates this message: “Airbus Defence and Space offers excellent conditions for women who want to get things moving. They just have to make best use of the chances they are given and prove their commitment – but that’s no different for any Airbus Defence and Space employee.” Ingo naturally wants to see an increase in the overall proportion of women in engineering and technical departments, so that the number of women candidates for senior management positions also rises as a consequence. The Bremen site has set the bar pretty high for its 2013 staffing targets: aiming for women making up 20% of engineering teams, and increasing the number of female engineers in management positions as quickly as possible.

In this context, Silvia Strom is an ideal candidate. Ambitious and proactive, she seizes any opportunity to take on more responsibility. Airbus Defence and Space provides the perfect environment for her to give full rein to her enthusiasm and to build up her skills. She will shortly be transferring to Airbus Defence and Space’s Les Mureaux site for a year, where she will combine the responsibility assigned to her for ATV Thermal Systems with other, new, professional challenges. She is not under the impression that Airbus Defence and Space treats men and women differently. “At the end of the day, it all comes down to each individual’s performance,” she says, even though she is also in favour of Airbus Defence and Space’s bid to encourage more women to take up higher management positions in engineering. “I love my job, and have been impressed by the exciting experiences I’ve had already during my four years here, such as the system tests in Toulouse, final integration of the ATV in Kourou and flight monitoring in the ATV control centre in Toulouse,” she adds. “If Airbus Defence and Space treated men and women differently, I wouldn’t have had those chances!”

“These are the kind of people we need!” says Ingo Giese. “If we succeed in establishing one or two young female engineers in managerial and executive positions, then in less than five years the issue surrounding women in engineering management will be old news. And I’m convinced that our increased activity around promoting diversity will help us to get there very quickly.”

Airbus Defence and Space