Imagine a woman and a man working on a plane. What did you immediately think of? A stewardess and a pilot, right? Who could blame you, when there is just a 1 out of 20 chance to witness a flight, where at least one of the pilots is a woman. AeroTime talked with some of them to find out exactly why we see more women in the cabin than in the cockpit.

Back in the 1986, a spokesperson for the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said that the reason there were only two women Boeing 747 captains at that time was "because women in aviation are a relatively recent phenomenon and everything in the airline's industry is done by seniority". But times change and with them changes the perception of equal rights, so both genders would be assumed to have somewhat similar numbers in the aviation industry. The ratio, however, is far from 1:1. Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Gloomy 4% on the average

Guess, what 28.6%, 33%, 15,6% represent? That’s right, the percentage of women pilots in three airlines (not your average trivia question, huh?). But can you guess which airlines can boast the respective numbers? Ryanair? Lufthansa? Nope, it’s Cape Air Guam, New England Airlines and Surf Air. Doesn’t ring a bell? Probably because these carriers offer regional routes and their total number of pilots do not exceed a hundred.

Notice the small numbers of female pilots? Yeah, we can barely see them as well.  

However, looking into some household names, the numbers are not that cheery. According to the data, gathered by the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISWAP), some bigger airlines show much lower digits – Emirates stands with 1.5%, Lufthansa with 6.9%, easyJet with 5% and British Airways employ 5.9% of female pilots. Assuming this, one can’t help but wonder why the ratio is this low.  

A boys’ club like no other

Being a pilot in the 60s and 70s was right up there with being an astronaut. The fact that flying then was a luxury and a number of people who tried such an adventure was truly small probably enhanced the prestige of being a pilot. Looking at aviation-related posters from that time there is a visible division of the roles of men and women in the industry. Women were presented as smiling stewardesses, carrying a tray. Men, however, were depicted with solemn expressions alongside military-inspired narrations to make the job more appealing.


Such a separation might have evoked a sort of fear among women dreaming about piloting a plane. The most common one – it is a boys’ club. "Media reinforces those stereotypes and notions even further by presenting pilots or aviation engineers as always men and their work as 'masculine' (physical and psychological strength, long and nonstandard working hours, high status and prestigious job, high salary, etc)," a representative of European Institute for Gender Equality said in an emailed statement to AeroTime.