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Feminist activism to create change in a male dominated industry: The alta mentoring platform

Durbin, Sue; Warren, Stella; Lopes, Ana


Susan Durbin
Professor in Human Resource Management

Ana Lopes


The alta mentoring platform, launched within the aviation and aerospace industry in 2019, is the outcome of a joint knowledge exchange project between academics and industry and was designed to meet the mentoring needs of women in this male dominated industry, who otherwise had no, or very little, mentoring support. Mentoring is beneficial for women at all stages in their careers (Durbin et al. 2022, 2020); Ehrich, 2008; Singh et al., 2002; Vinnicombe & Singh, 2002, 2003), especially in terms of career advancement (Durbin & Tomlinson 2014). It can facilitate the exchange of tacit knowledge and information that is often linked with promotion opportunities (Durbin, 2011; Swap et al., 2001) and is of particular significance for women as it can help them to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ (Lineham & Walsh, 1999).
This presentation analyses the design of an online mentoring platform—for women by women—in a high-technology, male-dominated UK industry: aviation and aerospace. Based on interviews with professionals and managers, we analyse the journeys of the women involved and contribute to the understanding of the role of women (individually and collectively) in challenging gendered norms in a male-dominated industry through the theoretical lenses of ‘critical actors’ and ‘critical mass’. We combine these concepts, usually seen as mutually exclusive, to explain the success of the online platform. We show how a small number of self-selected critical actors represented, listened and responded to the needs of the women in their industry, thus achieving the substantive representation of women. We also argue that while critical actors were key to its inception, the mentoring platform now needs a critical mass of women to ensure its success.


Durbin, S., Warren, S., & Lopes, A. (2023, September). Feminist activism to create change in a male dominated industry: The alta mentoring platform. Paper presented at European Sociological Association mid-term conference (RN14), the Architect, Bristol, UK

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name European Sociological Association mid-term conference (RN14)
Conference Location the Architect, Bristol, UK
Start Date Sep 4, 2023
End Date Sep 6, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 18, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 20, 2023
Keywords male-dominated industries, mentoring, feminist activism
Public URL
Additional Information Conference theme: Feminist Action: Welfare State, the Labour Market, and Societal and Ecological Crises