gender inclusive language

Drone industry leads way in gender inclusive language within the FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration is on its way to adopting more gender inclusive language, and it’s due in large part to the drone industry. The FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), a group of stakeholders representing drone industry, research and academia, retail, and technology met last week to discuss gender-neutral language. That group is made up of organizations including Google sister company Wing, Amazon Prime Air and Skydio. And during that meeting, the group approved four recommendations to adopt gender-neutral language for the drone community.

That includes swapping terms like “man-made” with “manufactured” or “fabricated”. The term “cockpit” would be replaced with “flight deck.”

Within the drone community, most notably, some people have been calling to replace the word “unmanned” with more gender inclusive language. The DAC made some recommendations for new terms. It would change words like “unmanned” to “uncrewed” to keep the UAV acronym, or simply refer to drones as what it says is the most optimal term, ‘drones.’ “Repairman” would be replaced by the more gender-neutral “technician” and “NOTAM” which currently stands for “notice to airman” would be adopted as its own word, rather than an acronym which includes a less-than-neutral word.

A screenshot from the DAC slide deck in its June 2021 meeting.

You can watch the entire discussion during last week’s FAA Drone Advisory Committee meeting through the recorded livestream of the meeting on the FAA’s YouTube page, which begins at the meeting’s 1:36:40 mark. And while there were some questions for the presenters on the DAC, the committee was largely in agreement that the new language should be adopted. The roughly two-and-a-half hour meeting spends roughly 30 minutes discussing gender inclusive language. Watch it here:

That meeting was in response to a call earlier in 2021 from the FAA, when it asked its Drone Advisory Committee to make recommendations on how the FAA and the industry could shift to using gender-neutral language.

“Really our vocabulary is dynamic,” said Dominique Gebru of the Federal Aviation Administration. “We used to say stewardess, but now we say flight attendant, and everyone knows what that means, it doesn’t cause confusion.”

The gender inclusive language could be a step in bringing more diversity to the heavily-white, male drone industry (and the broader aviation industry). An estimated 6.7 percent of the current registered FAA drone pilots are women. A slightly higher 8 percent of traditional FAA pilots are women. And American drone maker Skydio put out a report earlier this year stating that just 5% of Skydio 2 drones were purchased by women.

“Attracting and retaining people regardless of gender or gender identity is crucial so that the drone industry does not face the same labor shortages that are currently affecting the broader aviation industry,” said DAC committee member Michelle Schwartz, chief corporate strategy and affairs officer at Los Angeles World Airports.

Learn more: Dr. Catherine Ball’s TEDx talk on how drones can close the critical gap in equality

As far as actual implementation, that remains to be seen. Deputy FAA Administrator Bradley Mims told the Washington Post that the FAA would take the suggestions under advisement. That said, it looks like the DAC recommendations will be adopted in some capacity.

“Words matter a lot, and words are either a useful tool or they are a hindrance, if I can put it that way, or a barrier,” said FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims. “We want to make sure that, as we go forward, that we do all we can to make everybody comfortable and make everybody want to be a part of the industry.”

One Comment

  • J. Alter says:

    I find it amazing that some people have such cushy, privileged lives that they must search this hard to find something to be offended by. Gender inclusive language. Geeez… Congratulations on having such an easy life!

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