FIVE MINUTES WITH: Consortiq’s Miriam Hinthorn on cracking the UAV industry’s glass ceiling

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A lack of women working within the UAV industry has been offered as an explanation for the double-digit pay gaps revealed in recent weeks.

Ahead of April deadline, by which time any private sector company with more than 250 employees needs to publish data on their gender pay gap, along with details on the proportion of male and female employees and their gender bonus gap, a selection of key players within the drone industry have disclosed pay gaps of approximately 20%.

Alongside the disclosure of the mean and median difference in pay, it has also been revealed that men occupy the majority of senior positions, with some companies filling 89% of their top quartile positions with male employees.

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In light of the recent reports, US operations manager at Consortiq, Miriam Hinthorn, gave Commercial Drone Professional an insight into her experience of entering the industry as a female and her thoughts on what the sector could being doing to make waves of change.

A lot of companies that have been found to have large gender pay gaps have said that the absence of women in the technology sector is behind it, why do you think women appear to not be as drawn to the technology and UAV sectors as much as men?

Literally millions of dollars have been spent researching this question, and there’s never going to be an incontrovertible answer. But in the broadest of terms, surveys have shown that females are less likely to grow up with tech sector “feeder” hobbies such has playing video games, building model rockets, and learning how to hack stuff. As a result, we’re not as likely to be drawn to computer science, aeronautical engineering, and other UAV industry related subjects in secondary school and higher education.

Momentum is a powerful thing, once we’re done with school we have a tendency to overestimate the difficulty of succeeding in the UAV sector and underestimate our ability to acquire the necessary skillset for a drone-sector career.

What would you like to see happen to try and welcome other women into the industry?

Two things immediately come to mind. First, I’d like to see more companies give their female team members the chance to take on challenges and grow professionally. In October of 2017, Consortiq sent me to Dubai to scope future business opportunities and foster partnerships in the Middle East. I was given great advice, but it was largely up to me to create an engagement strategy at the conferences I attended, set up meetings with local decision-makers, and adapt to respect cultural norms. The message was pretty clear: we’ll open this door for you, but what you do next is up to you. Women don’t need to be coddled or pampered to thrive in the UAS industry, they just need to know that there will be opportunities.

Second, I’d like to see UAS (and more broadly, tech) sector female participation less sensationalised in the near future. Women have been innovating, problem solving, leading, and working incredibly hard for virtually all of human history. The difference is that today, it’s becoming more profitable and publicly visible. I think that highlighting “top ten women to watch in 2018” discredits the brilliant women of previous generations that had to dedicate their impressive talent and resources to so-called “support roles” or “homemaking.” It also implies that women need a special league to compete in. Women will join the drone industry if they know that they can make, and be recognised for, meaningful contributions. They won’t join if companies use them as a PR accessory that will make them look progressive, or hire more women simply to balance their numbers.

What has been you experience as a woman encountering the industry first-hand? What was it like to get into?

Amazing. Any time you’ve got a steep learning curve, are doing interesting and fulfilling work with a driven team, and have a boss that is fully committed to helping you grow professionally, you’re bound to love what you do. I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate engagements with multi-billion dollar corporations, do work in four different countries, develop solid public speaking and proposal writing skills, and of course learn about UAS technology and policy, which goes far beyond what I expected to be doing at age 24.

The only slight gender-related annoyance I can point to is occasionally being approached by well-meaning but misguided male professionals at events or conferences and being told something along the lines of “You’re brave to be here,” or “Don’t worry, I think you’re going to do just fine in this industry.” These kinds of interactions remind me of how lucky I am to be developing my career in 2018 (not 1950) and working for a company that doesn’t treat females as though they are somehow handicapped.

I’d like to point out that I have had the privilege of working with a number of talented and inspiring female teammates. Mary Bargteil, Shea O’Donnell, Emily Hanks, Kate Hallett, and Becky Henderson each fulfil mission-critical duties that are key to Consortiq’s success and inspire me to get more women onto our team as we grow.

If there was a greater balance between women and men working in drone organisations what impact do you think it would have?

That’s a really great question. Whether because of biological differences or environmental factors, men and women tend to give different weights to key variables when making decisions. Achieving a more balanced gender ratio is not a silver bullet, but I think that all else equal, we can expect improved organisational performance when greater gender diversity is achieved.

Tags : Consortiqgender pay gapMiriam HinthornWomenWomen in drones
Emma Calder

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