Senior bureaucrat Shefali Juneja represents India in the council of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a United Nations body. Prior to her nomination to the ICAO, she was the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
Representing India at CIAO, Montreal, Canada is prestigious. The council, which is composed of 36 states, is elected for a three-year term. The council member states are chosen under three headings -- states of chief importance in air transport, states which make the largest contribution to the provision of facilities for air navigation and states whose designation will ensure that all major areas of the world are represented.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, ICAO, in cooperation with Airports Council International (ACI), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and other international organizations based near its Headquarters, hosted a special joint event.
Shefali Juneja speaking to CSP said her talk addressed the problem of girls not going into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. “There are lack of role models in highly specialised fields like aviation. Mentorship is important.”
Shefali Juneja at ICAO International Women's Day programme
A pledge by each woman achiever was asked and Shefali pledged to “give mentorship to young women who aspire to be a part of the aviation industry.”
Speaking about her journey in aviation, she said “There are no short-cuts, we have to be best on the job, be ourselves and not worry when one is the only woman in the room.” She added that words like 'gender lenses' are being applied to various job profiles, recruitment is being done world over by only males and women are reluctant to try male dominated fields.
It is heartening therefore to know that as recent as last week, on the occasion of National Science Day, the Indian Government established 11 chairs named after Indian women scientists in institutes across the country. Only women researchers can take up these chairs, and receive research funding up to Rs 1 crore.
Statistics show that Indian women earned over half of undergraduate degrees in both Information Technology (51.9%) and Science (51.3%) in statistics released in 2019. “Ultimately it requires a cultural change and change in stereotypes about men and women roles in family and society,” says Shefali.
ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu welcomed the many guests who attended the Montreal celebration, which were focused around the International Women’s Day 2020 theme of: “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.”
“Throughout my professional career, and especially in my current role as ICAO Secretary General, I have strongly advocated for the equal participation of both women and men in international aviation operations and decision-making,” Dr. Liu highlighted.
“But it is now more important than ever to advocate for gender equality, given the opportunities which are presenting themselves due to growth, attrition, and other factors. This is particularly the case in highly-specialized industries like aviation, where women continue to be under-represented.”
In 2016, national governments at ICAO’s 39th Assembly adopted a Resolution supporting the establishment of ICAO’s Gender Equality Programme. This was realized the following year, and in 2018 the agency convened the first ever Global Aviation Gender Summit. Dr.Liu noted that a second such summit is currently being organized by ICAO for November 2020.