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Defence Industry and Space
News article24 November 2022

Defence, Aeronautics, and Space professionals depict a bittersweet image of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in their sectors

DG DEFIS disclosed the findings of its ED&I survey

Union for Equality

Following the launch of an industry-wide survey on equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) in the European Union in April 2022, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS) released the key findings and data gathered across the aeronautics, defence and space sectors.

There is growing evidence on the necessity to collect data on the main indicators of equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) in the industry and the need to gather information on the matter through a bottom-up approach. The European Commission’s survey aimed to assess the state of play of these issues among both employers and employees in European and national agencies, organisations and academia – all part of this specific ecosystem – to eventually better shape diversity-enhancing policies and regulations. The survey is part of the European Commission’s strategy to reach the social protection targets by 2030 outlined in its European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan.


Key findings:

Regarding discrimination, 53.4% of surveyed professionals disclosed having been victims of discrimination at least once. Among them, 63.8% affirmed that nothing had changed ever since, and unfair and unequal treatment still occurred. More specifically, women appear to have encountered discrimination and unequal treatment more frequently than men (73% vs 32% respectively) and reported gender as the most recurrent cause of discrimination (94%). As far as men are concerned, socioeconomic status (38%) and age (38%) were indicated as the main drivers of personal discrimination. Furthermore, when asked about who treated them unfairly, 45.7% of the respondents who claimed to have been discriminated against pointed at someone from the management.

In addition, despite 50.2% of surveyed employees stating to have reported or been willing to report incidences of discrimination to employers or third parties, almost a quarter (23.1%) said they would not feel at ease doing it. 22.9% do not consider taking action either because they fear reputational damage, or they perceive it as useless.

As far as inclusivity is concerned, women are typically underrepresented in senior managerial roles (10–29%). Furthermore, 47% of people with disabilities expressed their dissatisfaction with their companies’ accommodation of their needs. Moreover, 56.6% of respondents indicated being comfortable declaring their religious beliefs at work, while 57% affirmed being completely at ease with being open about their sexual orientation. Finally, only 63% of employees claimed to express themselves freely in the workplace.

Overall, 53% of employees agree that their sector is not welcoming and inclusive for everyone agreeing that their sector is welcoming and inclusive for everyone.

On the employers’ side, 76% indicated not handling any discrimination reports at all, while the remaining 24% claimed to receive a varying number of discrimination reports per year. Furthermore, 63% of surveyed employers affirmed having ED&I stated in their mission, vision and values. Almost two-thirds of employers either have an ED&I strategy in place (51%) or are in the process of establishing one (12,5%). The remaining respondents (36.4%) claimed that their organisation does not have an ED&I strategy in place at all.              

However, it is important to state that 51% of employees indicated not being aware of their company’s policies on the matter, with an additional 63% not informed of the existence of national programs being developed by their country on this subject.



In 2017 the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar sets out 20 key principles which represent the beacon for a fair, inclusive Europe. With a clear need to further work towards a more just and fair society that respects the values of human dignity, freedom and democracy von der Leyen’s social agenda for the following five years set up an Action Plan putting forward three EU-level targets in the areas of employment, skills and social protection to be achieved by 2030.

As the coronavirus crisis further highlighted the discrimination and gender disparities in Europe, the European Commission introduced the new strategy “Towards a Union of Equality”. The goal of the strategy is to put in place mechanisms, policies and actions challenging structural discrimination across the Union.         

The European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, has been appointed as the leader of the related new Task Force on Equality. The Task Force’s main responsibilities go from fighting discrimination to strengthening Europe’s commitment to inclusion and equality, developing a European gender strategy, protecting the rights of people with disabilities, and stopping gender-based violence.            



Publication date
24 November 2022