In the 21st century, it is still hard to believe that with so much emphasis on gender equality in the workplace, and while women are evident in customer service and administrative roles, females are so vastly under-represented in the aviation and aerospace sectors. More than 60% of sales personnel are female worldwide; however, behind the closed doors of the cockpits, board rooms and hangers; there is a completely different story.
The number of women in non-traditional roles, such as pilots and engineers, exposes an uneven balance of gender in the workplace, which exists in a way up to the board level. According to Women in Aviation International, 6.6% of women are pilots in the US. In Canada, statistics show that only 5.2% of licensed airplane pilots are women. Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority shows, only 3.3% of licensed air transport pilots are female.
Moreover, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, only 6% of the UK’s engineering professionals are females, and a Labor Force Survey from 2004 concludes that there is an even lower proportion of women working in aerospace than engineering in general (11% compared with 19%).
Female Role Models
“Part of today’s problem is just down to the lack of visible role models in aviation,” believes Clare Parker MD of Academist Help. She further added: “Most ladies feel uncomfortable flying an aircraft, as so few are working in the cockpits.”
“The fact cannot be denied that if young women were continually exposed to successful role models in the aviation industry, then more young girls would believe non-traditional roles are achievable for them too.” Says Alexandra Karanika, Project Engineer at Hellenic Aerospace Industry.
Hence, if a young girl sees a woman in aviation with a successful career, she may be more inclined to consider it as something good for her as well. Exposing young girls to aviation is vital to fulfilling the workforce needs of this industry.
While Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, the director of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, also its first female president in 2010, asserts that cultural norms take time to change. “The more women know stories about the achievements of their predecessors, demonstrating in books and through different media, the more they can envision those roles for themselves,” she said.
Airbus is a somewhat setting example of how commercial organizations should support female to enter into the aviation industry. It runs many activities to encourage girls into engineering. Airbus has also launched the Industrial Cadets (IC) program that has taught hundreds of girls about aeronautical engineering and aviation. Moreover, giving young women hands-on experience of flying also plays a big part in inspiring them to pursue a career in the aviation and aerospace sectors.
“The Women of Aviation Worldwide” week was celebrated in March 2013, which exposed more than 17,000 girls worldwide to the opportunities available in the aviation industry. The organizers discovered that more than 76% of the attendees had never exposed to aviation activities before the event.
“Businesses with the highest representation of women IN their top management teams delivered 35.1% higher return on equity and 34% higher total return to shareholders than companies with the lowest representation”. (US-based Catalyst)
To achieve the above, women need to be more confident, capable, and wise with their abilities and improve their communication and networking skills. It is harder for them to grow in environments such as aviation or aerospace, where they are widely outnumbered, but effective networking is vital. Also, mentoring is a crucial factor for them to make their next career move.
However, it is believed to be easier for men to mentor other men, hence encouraging men to be comfortable mentoring women is a goal that an organization Women In Aviation and Aerospace Committee is currently working onto.
The Need for Women in Aviation
Since its inception in the last decade, the aviation industry has utilized a prominent contribution of women as essential in the development of the aviation industry worldwide. Women have achieved milestones in every sector of the industry from developing technologies, maintaining and testing to piloting aircraft.
Despite the role women have played in aviation as inventors, technicians, designers, and pilots, there is still a surprisingly low representation of women in aviation worldwide. As only 3% of worldwide pilots are women, while in the US, only 4.4% of pilots are women.
Get Women to the Industry
As mentioned earlier, there are many ways by which the aviation industry can attract and retain women with abilities. Encouraging them to be a part of the field can be a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer.
Highlighting the economic and productivity argument above, it is proven that having more women in senior management score higher in all dimensions of organizational productivity and effectiveness. Also, encouraging the education system to demonstrate careers in the aerospace and aviation industry to young girls can be beneficial as well.
Women working in senior positions should be highlighted as role models, as it’s encouraging for newbies to see women seeking a good career in top management. Moreover, the retention after recruitment in the sector is essential to resolve biases.
HR policies play an essential role in initiating and maintaining the strategic imperative for companies hindering the progress of women. To do this, diversity-related objectives must be built into personal progression objectives and should be transformed throughout the organization. Also, flexibility, wellbeing, and leadership need to be aligned with mutual goals as stressful working environments may put women off going for the top level designations.
Lastly, as men are currently in more senior positions than women, the support of men in leadership can help create a more friendly work environment.
Women In Training
Boeing estimates that the world will need more than 55,800 licensed pilots to fulfill the growing needs for the air travel industry by 2034. Hence, a large number of airlines have taken initiatives to inspire more females and convince them to join the aviation sectors as pilots.
Nowadays, there is plenty of career opportunities targeted for growing women in the aviation industry as more airlines are encouraging women to join their team as pilots. Moreover, there are exponentially increasing number of scholarships, specially allotted for females in different aviation schools to motivate them.
Below is a list of scholarships available for women interested in completing pilot training.
· The International Society of Women Airline Scholarship
· The Ninety-Nines, INC. Scholarships
· Girls With Wings Scholarship
· Women in Aviation, International Scholarships
· Women in Corporate Aviation Scholarships
Thanks to the above opportunities, the industry is hoping to see an increase in the number of women pilots to help fulfill the industry needs.
The Changing Image
Traditionally, different airlines were advertising their services by representing male pilots and female flight attendants. However, currently, this monopoly has started to break down as many airlines are now tapping into a new resource, that is; women with pilot licenses.
A number of Female pilots can now be seen in advertisements and proudly represented in the informational material of the airlines across the globe.
Apparently, more and more women are completing their pilot training and becoming expert industry instructors, while convincing decision-makers to believe that the industry is becoming more inviting for aspiring female to be pilots. Moreover, Women still have a hard time making their careers in the aviation industry; however, we can already see a positive trend for inspiring young blood by demonstrating great examples.
Aviation companies are now creating more and more programs to attract and encourage women to work in positions that were considered to be ideal for men only years ago. It is excellent that the aviation industry has finally realized that the intellectual value is independent of gender, and women are no less than men when it comes to taking the aircraft above the clouds.
Stella is a single mother, full-time travel blogger and an academic writer. She is a former business graduate, also a contributor at Australian Master. She owns a blog named Educator House and is a world schooling enthusiast.