The RAF is on its way to embracing diversity and promoting gender equality and Sarah Maskell MBE is helping to drive that change.
In 2012, Maskell took up her current role as the lead for Diversity and Inclusion Policy for the Royal Air Force and has strived to improve the lived experience of personnel.
Speaking at the 2017 First Women Summit, Wing Commander Maskell said, “We [the RAF] want to mirror the society we defend.”
Gender equality and diversity is firmly on the RAF’s radar. There are now no barriers for women in the RAF and they can apply for any role within the force. Maskell hopes that this, “100 per cent transparency will help to see women coming through the pipeline.”
Female representation with the RAF is also leaps and bounds in front of the other armed forces. According to recent government statistics, in April 2016 the number of female personnel stood at 14 per cent for the RAF, while women made up 19.6 per cent of the RAF reserves.
The RAF also had the highest number of female officers, standing at 16.7 per cent, while the Army and Royal Navy only had 10.4 per cent and 11.8 per cent female representation respectively.
A lack of female representation is not something that Maskell saw during her own initial training. She said, “one of my first experiences was a selection centre and we had to do some problem solving exercises and I was in a group of both men and women. My first instructor was also a woman.”
Maskell joined the Royal Air Force in 1999 at the age of 20. Since then she has risen through the ranks and has enjoyed a variety of roles in the Personnel sphere. These include personnel management, infrastructure, and facilities management in the UK and in a variety of global locations.
For her efforts, Maskell has been recognised and rewarded with numerous awards. In 2015, she achieved Corporate Straight Ally and in 2016 she was awarded the Head of Diversity Award. She was also awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.
Maskell does however agree that there is still a way to go in promoting diversity within the air force. Commenting on the difficulties in introducing fresh ideas and new people, she said, “The air force is a really novel set up in that we grow our own talent. It takes 25 years to grow our senior board leaders.”
“So it’s trying to influence senior leaders on diversity.”