8 Women in the Swiss Drone Industry Open Up About Diversity: How Far We’ve Come, How Far to Go

Switzerland is known for technology innovation, and many of the leading drone companies are based there.  Here, 8 of the top women in the Swiss drone industry comment on the progress we’ve made and challenges we face in improving diversity in the drone industry.

During this week while we celebrate women around the world and diversity in the drone industry, DRONELIFE is honored to publish the following guest post by Eszter Kovacs, CEO & founder of Manageld and co-founder of DroneTalks.online. DRONELIFE neither accepts nor makes payment for guest posts.

The drone industry is not an exception to the rule that diversity produces better business results. But how can we motivate young female professionals to enter the industry? How can we ensure that women are well represented in senior positions or at board level?

“If You Can’t See It, You Can’t Be It” says the famous sentence. People need role models, but do we have them in the drone industry? In Switzerland, certainly!

How can a country that granted the right to vote and stand for election for its women only in 1971 be this successful on diversity and inclusion in a newly upcoming industry like drones?

The success may be hidden in the country’s extremely positive approach towards innovation. Switzerland is a nation of inventors and innovators. For the last six years running, Switzerland was ranked as the number one country in the world for innovation according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) index.

In the overall rankings, Switzerland took top spot for the eleventh year in succession, with this excellent record primarily attributable to the country’s huge number of patents. In the Knowledge and Technology Output category, Switzerland is again ranked first on a global basis.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, in collaboration with DroneTalks, we asked eight female leaders from the Swiss drone industry to provide views about their experiences regarding diversity and being a female in the drone industry.

Drone industry is at the forefront of innovation, making people’s life better and easier in so many various areas, and it is really both fun and challenging for me to be part of it. As a woman in this industry, I hope my example can help women who are aspiring to have a career in this field to know that it is possible and to follow their dream. There is a place for all of us no matter the gender, and I believe that diversity and inclusion are enriching for both the business and our customers. Synergy of different backgrounds brings broader vision, better ideas and eventually cooler products.  Oksana Prokhorova, Head of Manufacturing at Sunflower Labs

I imagine living in a world where this question is not even coming up, and my positive lens says that we are closer and closer to it. To develop a culture where every voice matters, the industry must focus on inclusion while removing existing barriers that preclude women from seeking careers in aviation or the drone industry. Only an industry where every person is valued, welcomed, respected, and feels safe in their workplace will function at its full capacity and scale. We are creating the industry today. CEOs and senior business representatives of the drone companies have a diverse background as no one has 20+ years of drone experience. This is the time when women should be brave enough and step into leadership positions to drive the change. From that, not only the person will benefit, but the whole ecosystem. As I always say, we create a product for the whole world, so we need to listen to everyone’s views about it, right?  Eszter Kovacs, Co-Founder at DroneTalks

Over the past twenty years, the low representation of women in the aviation industry has certainly been notable. However, as I have recently joined Aurora, I am thrilled and incredibly proud to see many women leading engineering teams and projects. Diversity makes each of our programs stronger which ultimately leads to better solutions, and it’s a great benefit as we work in key areas such as urban air mobility to one day make autonomous air transport for people into an everyday reality.  Sonia Berube-Ray, Managing Director at Aurora Swiss Aerospace

Being a woman in the drone industry has been like nothing I have experienced before. Is it an industry dominated by men? Yes, it is, but this is mostly due to the education background of people in the industry. Do I feel threatened or undermined because of that? No, I don’t. I do not have a technical background, but a legal one, and I had to learn from the scratch how things work from a technical perspective. That was exciting and challenging at the same time. I had to find my place in the industry, but I always felt safe and welcome. I mostly felt that my voice was heard, particularly where my legal background was relevant, because that’s what I know best.  Cristina Mihalachioiu, Co-Founder, Legal & Communication at INVOLI

I have been in the Drone Industry for 4 years so far and I am aware that it is classed as male-dominated, but I have personally never experienced any issue. So far I have met only positive and empowering people who treated me in the most professional and respectful way and contribute to expand my knowledge and strengthen my interest and passion. Regarding the diversity, women are still underrepresented in this industry. I think that first, there is not enough awareness of employment and career opportunities and second, a lack of inclusivity. My biggest hope for the near future is that more companies will work to create a more inclusive and positive workplace and that schools and non-profit organisations will inspire and support more girls and women to pursue careers in the drone industry other than STEM, aviation, etc.  Giulia Biffi, Flight Director at Matternet

It’s really important that everyone should feel safe and able to realize their full potential, especially in engineering disciplines, where diversity has historically been a challenge. I’m proud of the diversity of our team at Dufour.  Jasmine Kent, CTO, Dufour Aerospace

Being in drone space means that you are very often surrounded by men. It’s a very technical industry. However, I have never felt excluded or disrespected or even treated differently than any other person, be it a man or a woman. Maybe I’ve been lucky, maybe I’m in a bubble, maybe my parents never told me that I’m different from men, so I never felt so. I believe a lot depends on our inner strength and how we present ourselves to the world. When you walk straight, with your head up high and find the inner strength to believe in yourself no matter others opinions, no one will be able to challenge that. And that’s what I think we should all work towards, independently on our sex, race or religion.

Because diversity is beautiful and we should allow it to develop naturally, supporting every talent, giving equal opportunity. Yet again, not forcing but rather inspiring everyone to feel empowered and comfortable to take whatever choices they want to take. Justina Kostinaité, Head of Marketing at Wingtra

As aviation pioneer and female rights advocate, Amelia Earhart once mentioned: ‘Preparation, I have often said, is rightly two-thirds of any venture. ‘ As a key employee responsible for Logistics and Export Control at SwissDrones, a swiss aerospace company specialized in unmanned aerial intelligence, I want to underline this statement. Without good planning and organization, no drone can ever take off safely and perform the duties as planned! As a woman, I am glad to participate in making the unmanned aviation industry more diverse with the belief that the more variety you have on a team, the better the people can perform and profit from the contribution of everyone’s best ideas and efforts.  Lisa-Maria Gerstgrasser, Logistics Management at SwissDrones.

Read more about diversity in the drone industry:

Eszter Kovacs is the CEO & founder of Manageld and co-founder of DroneTalks.online. She is a well-known drone influencer.
As an expert in technical innovation in the drone sector, Eszter has contributed to several companies’ growth, leading complex implementations and mentoring and advising leaders on strategic planning and operational transformation. In 2020 Eszter successfully led the Global UTM association with 40 + UTM ecosystem leaders through its restructuring for six months.
 From 2016 – to 2019, Eszter successfully led the GSMA Drone Interest Group, growing it from 10 mobile operator members to nearly 40 finding solutions to leverage cellular connectivity in the aviation environment.
Eszter is passionate about boosting diversity; in 2020, she launched an event series, “Women Behind the Drone Revolution”, which is still running successfully intending to highlight female leaders’ activities related to drones.
Eszter holds a BA in Military & Safety Engineering from the Hungarian National University of Public Services and is currently attending Boston University’s digital leadership studies. She was born in Hungary and, having travelled extensively, resides in Bern, Switzerland.
Eszter is an expert writer in multiple drone-focused online magazines such as Commercial UAV news and Commercial Drone Professional. She is also an advisor for various start-ups such as Globhe and drone-related initiatives such as AUVSI Xponential and Commercial UAV shows.