Colors: Blue Color

To commemorate International Women’s Day five key developments for women in aviation last year are celebrated, as an industry historically dominated by men continues its journey to gender equality.

It’s a sad fact that, with a few exceptions, when flying travellers are still most likely to encounter women in public-facing service roles, such as flight attendants or at check-in. According to research from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISWAP) women make up only 5% of pilots across the globe, and only 3% of airline CEOs.

But as 2019’s International Women’s Day approaches, flight and travel comparison platform Netflights is highlighting how a #balanceforbetter was achieved in the aviation industry in 2018, including the first appointment of a female CEO by a major airline, an increase in female pilots, and how a group of female airline technicians are challenging the idea that the only place for women on planes is a ‘Trolley Dolly’.

Five big moments for women in aviation during 2018:

  1. Air France hired their first ever female CEO - In December Air France appointed Anne Rigail as its new CEO, making her the first woman to ever take up the prestigious role in the airline’s 85-year history. Prior to her appointment, Rigail had been Air France’s executive vice president.

Rigail is seen as a force to be reckoned with, with her predecessor, Benjamin Smith, describing her as a “strong professional within the industry”. Her brief? To completely transform Air France.

  1. India had the more female pilots than any other country - In the UK around 4.77% of airline pilots are women – however in India it is more than double this at 12.4% – that’s according to the ISWAP.
  2. Zoom Air had the highest number of female pilots - Data from (ISWAP) highlighted that regional Indian airline Zoom Air has the most female pilots of all airlines worldwide. They employ nine female pilots out of a total of 30. IndiGo has the second highest percentage of women pilots at 13.9%.

Bottom of the list is Norwegian airlines – they only had 1% of females in the cockpit, in comparison to the global average of 3.2%.

  1. The Nancy Bird Walton initiative launched - In late 2017 Qantas announced the launch of a new initiative named after pioneering Australian aviator and the founder and patron of the Australian Women Pilots’ Association, Nancy Bird Walton. The aim of this was to commit to a 20 per cent intake of qualified women during its 2018 Future Pilot’s Program.
  2. Chix were Fix-ing airplanes - The ‘Chix Fix’ are a group of female technicians from all over the USA. They formed together in 2018 to compete as the first all-female commercial airline team in the Aerospace Maintenance Competition. They did so with the hope to raise awareness all over the world that aircraft maintenance is a career path for people of all genders.


It’s hip, Hipheadwear, hooray for Sutton Coldfield-based entrepreneur, Sabine Brannan, as her company Hipheadwear have secured a contract to supply merchandise to the UK’s top charity*, Cancer Research UK, for sale online.

Hipheadwear specialise in headwear for men, women and children who have been affected by medical hair loss through chemotherapy, alopecia or stress and Cancer Research UK were quick to recognise the value of working together:

“Hair loss as a side effect of cancer treatment can really affect a person’s self-esteem,” explains Julie Byard, Head of Trading at Cancer Research UK. "With a choice of styles, designs and materials that cater to specialised needs, Hipheadwear is a great addition to our new, cancer care range, which is full of helpful little things for those on a cancer journey and is available at Cancer Research UK's online shop”.

Having forged a career in bridal couture in her home country of The Netherlands, Sabine was approached by a close friend for help in finding comfortable, stylish headwear as she underwent her own journey through breast cancer care. Touched by her friends plight and surprised by the lack of innovation in this niche part of the industry, Sabine set out to do her best to help her friend and in 2008, Hipheadwear was born! Sabine has never looked back:

“I had always wanted to run my own business and with my parents both in the fabric trade, it’s probably no surprise that I’ve combined the two. That said, I am still surprised by how popular and successful Hipheadwear has become,” explains Sabine.

“What started out as bit of a side-line for me, has become a small business with both compassion and passion, at its heart. I am very proud that, like me, my company has really found its feet here in the UK. Whilst my designs are inspired by fabrics and prints from around the world, our manufacturing base is here in the Midlands too.

Sabine continues:

“We are a small team and we take care to recognise, that our customers are people who are going through a period of turmoil and uncertainty in their lives. We keep this in mind as we aim to ensure our customer experience is second-to-none, with one or two personal touches included.”

It is a busy time for Hipheadwear, as the company are looking to expand and move premises to the Jewellery Quarter this summer, having been based in Sutton Coldfield for the last few years. Having already secured ‘approved supplier’ status with the NHS and Alopecia UK, as well as being one of the first suppliers to trade at the state-of-the-art Guy’s Cancer Centre in London, Sabine is optimistic that the partnership with Cancer Research UK, is the start of things to come:

“I am in preliminary talks with CRUK about possibly starting an exclusive range for them, it’s exciting but still very early days yet. I am just really happy that my headwear is so popular and it’s important to me that every purchase that is made via Cancer Research UK  is giving something back to cancer research,  the work they do is hugely valuable and means so much to so many, it’s humbling to play a small part in that.”

A Somali teenager has spoken out about being supported in Birmingham to overcome her trauma in a bid to inspire other young refugees ahead of International Women’s Day.

In 2017, conflict forced Mirfat to leave behind everything she knew at the age of 16 and seek safety in the UK. Over a year later, a Birmingham project called Surviving to Thriving has helped Mirfat to make a film to address her experiences and build the confidence to thrive in her new community.

She recalls: “Arriving in the UK it felt different and scary. I thought ‘no way can I survive here’. It was such a horrible experience to go through when you’re young.

“I felt lonely, I couldn’t sleep or eat. All I wanted was my mum and my family. I just wanted to go home.”

Mirfat was feeling very low and struggling to connect with other people when she heard about the Surviving to Thriving project, a partnership between charities UpRising, British Red Cross and Refugee Council.

Through support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the project has provided over 236 vulnerable children and teenagers in Birmingham with the life and leadership skills, advice, and mental health support to rebuild their lives and thrive.

Mirfat says: “Surviving to Thriving gives young people the opportunity and motivation to think that it doesn’t matter how you look or what your refugee status is —you can do anything in your life.

“The project helps you to make more friends, build your confidence and improve your English because we don’t have family, we don’t know anyone. It gives you hope because most of us who come here we have no hope.”

Through UpRising’s programme, participants create a film exploring their experiences, taking up the roles of actor, script-writer, director, and film-maker to represent the perceptions and challenges they face as young displaced people in the UK.

For Mirfat, making the film was a turning point in her life.

She says: “I never thought I could stand in front of people on stage and say even my name into a mic. I’ve changed a lot. I was shy and scared and frightened but I started to build my confidence.”

At a special screening event held at the Rich Mix cinema in London’s Shoreditch area on Thursday evening, Mirfat presented ‘Dreams’, the film she had helped work on. In it, she shares her aspirations, seeing the strength of women in the UK inspired her to think big for the future.

Mirfat says: “I wanted to give that message in the film because in my country if you’re a woman or a girl you can’t work. I see that women here have power so that gives me motivation and confidence.”

Through the project, Mirfat has also been able to bring her experiences in front of figures able to influence changes, big and small, to impact the lives of young displaced people for the better. In February, she joined a presentation at Parliament and spoke to MPs Catherine West and Christine Jardine about the right to work for people seeking asylum.

This International Women’s Day, Mirfat wants the experiences of young female refugees and people seeking asylum to be recognised as a source of strength.

She says: “If any girl has been through the experience of coming to the UK alone then she’s brave. She has a stronger mind than anyone.

“I want to show that women can do anything. I wasn’t always confident — I am now. The sky’s the limit for me.”

Kalyani McCarthy, Surviving to Thriving project manager, says: “It’s hard to be an adult when you haven’t had the chance to be a child.

“We’re so pleased to see how the right support can help these young people become thriving members of their new communities and use their experiences as a force for positive change.”

Eight year old, Mia Falatoori from East London, has been crowned winner of The National Young Writers’ Awards 2018!  The competition, now in its tenth year, was judged by bestselling author and comedian, David Walliams and organised by tuition provider, Explore Learning.  Mia was surprised in an assembly at her school, Churchfields Junior School in South Woodford on Monday morning, by Walliams who presented her with a prize of a trip to Disneyland Paris for her family and £500 worth of books for her school.  He then read out Mia’s winning story entitled The Mum with the Toxic Bum to the whole school and her family who had turned up in secret!

David Walliams said: “I was overwhelmed by the quality and creativity of the stories I read in the National Young Writers’ Awards and was so impressed that this broad range of exciting ideas have come from such young writers.  Each piece of writing drew me in and kept me captivated by clever and observant story lines and engaging characters.

“I picked Mia’s story because it really made laugh.  I love funny stories and this is one of the funniest pieces of writing I have read in ages.  The images that are painted in your head when you read it are hilarious – I only wish I had written it myself!  I am sure this winning writer will be a big success and a wonderful writer for children one day if she wants to be!”

The annual writing competition is now in its tenth year and this year’s theme was ‘heroes’, where children were tasked with writing a 500-word story all about their hero, whether that was their parent, a policeman or an idol they aspire to be like.  Mia chose the fictional character of a pickled onion eating, farting mum who saves the day by poisoning would-be criminals with her toxic bum!  Over 38,000 children from across the UK entered the competition with organisers, Explore Learning, running creative writing workshops up and down the country inspiring children to get creative and give writing a try.

Charlotte Gater, Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning said: “This year’s National Young Writers’ Awards attracted a record number of entries – largely due to having the wonderful David Walliams as our judge who is such a fun, inspiration to children – and adults, no matter what age!  We are hugely proud to organize the longest running writing competition for children and over the past 10 years, we’ve really encouraged children in their thousands to release their creativity in abundance.

“Mia’s story was hilarious and so well written!  We have been absolutely blown away by how many children sent us heroic tales and loved reading them all.  Mia has done so well to be crowned winner and hopefully we have a little comedy writer in the making!”

James Easter, Assistant Head Teacher at Churchfields Junior School: “We were delighted to welcome David Walliams to present Explore Learning’s 1st prize for the National Young Writers’ Awards to Mia. David read Mia’s story, the winner of 39,000 entries, in assembly and Explore Learning and Harper Collins gave Churchfields a bounty of new books and prizes.”

While Mia won an awesome prize of a trip to Disneyland Paris for her family and £500 worth of books for her school, the top 10 entries received £250 worth of books for their schools from Letts Revision plus a large print of the opening line of their story by QuirkyLime.  Each of the 151 regional winners also won £50 worth of books!

Deborah Falatoori, Mia’s Mum said: ''We are incredibly proud of Mia’s achievement in winning this national award and excited to be sharing her happiness with her school and friends. Mia’s passion for writing has been very evident from a young age and we enjoy supporting her wholeheartedly — always looking forward to her next story that she captures from her imagination.”

Organisers, Explore Learning, are an award-winning English and maths tuition with 137 centres located all over the UK.  Over 35,000 children aged four to 14 attend their centres each week with the aim of becoming fearless learners.

CEO and Co-Founder of the Wambiz private social network, Harry Jawanda, has been named as one of Birmingham City University’s Alumni of the Year.

Wambiz is best known for specialising in apps for schools, colleges and universities which allow students to connect and communicate with their teachers and each other in an engaging, yet controlled way, without blurring the line between school and social life.

Harry Jawanda studied BSc Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) at Birmingham City University from 2005. After graduating with first-class honours in 2009, Harry worked for the investment bank Morgan Stanley, where he undertook a placement during his time as a student, before he founded Wambiz in October 2012.

Harry’s role as Chief Executive Officer is to drive technology strategy and idea generation, as well as working with the company’s Chief Operating Officer to formulate sales and marketing strategies.

Harry Jawanda, aged 31 and from Wolverhampton, said: “I knew that there was a real need to improve communication in schools, colleges and universities, as teachers were using email to communicate with students, which young people do not engage with, or channels such as Facebook which brings about safeguarding concerns.

“Our apps look and feel like social media but there are lots of controls in place, for example you have to belong to the institution concerned to use it and posts can be removed or people can be blocked from the app if needs be.”

The Alumni of the Year award provides an opportunity to recognise Birmingham City University graduates who have made a valuable contribution to society or their professional field. It also demonstrates the extraordinary range of achievements among the University’s former students.

On finding out he had been selected for the award, Harry said: “I was really surprised and happy to find out I was an Alumni of the Year. It’s good to receive recognition, but it’s also really nice because everything I’m doing now links back to my time at the University, so it’s good to have that connection and I hope it’s a relationship that will continue in future.

“I hope that my success will inspire current students at Birmingham City University and its alumni to pursue their goals and ambitions.”

Harry will be handed his award by the University’s Chancellor, Sir Lenny Henry on Friday 27 July in a graduation ceremony at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, alongside graduands from Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment.

Harry added: “For me, all the staff on my course were brilliant, and I particularly remember Thomas Lancaster who was really important to where I am now. A lot of what he taught was programming, which I expected to enjoy least, but he was really engaging and increased my interest in the subject.”

Last year, Harry’s company signed a seven-figure deal with education software group Tribal plc, who acquired from Wambiz the intellectual property rights and exclusive distribution rights for the Wambiz private social network solution to the education markets across the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Tribal also acquired the non-exclusive rights to sell the solution into the Canadian education market.

This is freeing up the Wambiz team – based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus close to Birmingham City University’s City Centre Campus – to target the American education market and look for other sectors which could use the same technology in the UK.

As well as success in business, Harry also played field hockey for England for many years. He has won three English Premier Division titles among other accolades, and still plays for his local side, Cannock Hockey Club.

Visitors to Birmingham’s Medicine Gallery will be amongst the first to see new micro-sculptures by internationally renowned artist Dr Willard Wigan MBE.


The Wolverhampton-born micro-sculptor is famous for sculpting the world’s smallest works of art and has been celebrated in the Guinness Book of World Records.


The exhibition, running from Friday May 18 to Sunday June 3, will showcase around twenty-five micro-miniature works which sit within the eye of a needle, on the head of a pin and even on a human hair. Some of the artworks have never been exhibited in Birmingham before.


Alongside the new pieces, visitors will be able to see some of Wigan’s most iconic sculptures such as ‘Evolution’ - from ape to man, ‘The Last Supper in the eye of a needle,’ ‘Gold Galleon on a pinhead’ and the Guinness World Record holding sculpture; ‘Golden Voyage’ - a motorbike carved from specs of dust inside a hollowed out human hair.


The exhibition will appeal to not only art lovers but people of all ages, including children, who will undoubtedly be fascinated by the skill and genius of the artist’s unique perspective as they are transported to another dimension when viewing the impossibly small creations through custom-made displays incorporating microscopes.


Inspired to capture the attention and awe of the viewer, the subject matters are entirely hand sculpted and painted in the smallest and most microscopic of detail with the artist imagining and creating a microscopic world that entices people to look closer.


His work has been described as “the eighth wonder of the world” and it is fitting that the boy who was told he would amount to nothing was, in 2007, honoured by The Queen with an MBE for his services to art and, in 2018, was awarded an honorary doctorate by The University of Warwick.


Dr Wigan has gained international acclaim as his works have fascinated viewers around the world.

In celebration of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, he was commissioned to replicate the Coronation Crown on the head of a pin. That sculpture now resides at Buckingham Palace.


He said: “My motto in life is ‘the smallest of things can make big things happen.’ I continue to follow my late mother’s guiding advice: ‘the smaller your work, the bigger your name’ and my continued goal remains quite simple: to inspire others with my micro-sculptures and to encourage them to live to their fullest potential, remembering that ‘nothing’ does not exist.”


Willard will be present at the Medicine Galley on Friday May 18 to deliver a speech to open the exhibition. Both him and his work will also be celebrated and explored in a one hour Channel 4 documentary due to be broadcast on Sunday May 27.


50% of all proceeds from the exhibition will go to the fund for the commissioning of a monument at the National Memorial Arboretum for the unsung heroes of the Commonwealth Community in World War I and World War II.