Women Fighter Pilots in IAF – Breaking the glass ceiling…

Amidst all the major headlines that hit last week, one news that came as refreshing and away from the stereotype was about women fighter pilots being commissioned in the Indian Air Force.

Earlier this year, the President of India had announced that the government has approved the induction of women in combat roles of the Indian military. Women would be inducted via the Short-Service Commission as officers and fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force. Last week three women fighter pilots were commissioned into the Indian Air Force.

Considering that the Indian Military has been known to be a ‘traditionalist’ outfit, this is a first. This step not only moved away from the tradition but also broke the glass ceiling in a male dominated world. It provides hope and opportunity for the coming generations to be able to fly, irrespective of your gender.

While absolute gender parity in the armed forces may take time, to me, this is a big step towards a world where people will be judged solely on what they can do, their capability and potential and not who they are.

And that is important… In my mind a job role should be based on who is best suited to do the role and not gender or any other factor.

Speaking of diversity, I was having a conversation with someone who does a lot of work in this space and had just returned from a seminar on the subject. She had a couple of interesting things to say. Of the 50 participants, there was only one man! When she expressed her surprise, he responded saying he was representing the male fraternity. Her point was that diversity is not about gender alone. And that is true.

Unfortunately, in the corporate world, when someone says ‘Diversity’, it spontaneously relates to gender. While it is critical, there are more dimensions to diversity like ethnicity, nationality, disability, education, sexual orientation, religion and age.

In a Mckinsey report, ‘Why Diversity Matters’, ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their peers, when compared to gender-diverse companies who are 15% more likely to outperform their peers.

To me, the above statistic is important not just from a diversity standpoint, but from the perspective of companies ensuring that they have opened their doors to one and all. If the focus is about getting the right people for the right role, and management is open to hire different people without any bias, will ‘diversity’ be such an issue, is a question to ask.

The first step towards this, is gender diversity, and companies have to move towards a more diverse hiring practice, focusing on talent fit.

The Indian Air Force has just taken a small step in that direction and congratulations to them for finally breaking the glass ceiling…