Women in the aviation sector in India face many challenges. But Bharti Singh, an assistant professor at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Delhi, believes such trials are temporary and can eventually be overcome.
“I always tell my female students to be more courageous, be more bold, be more upfront and keep your head high,” says Singh, an aviation consultant who specializes in transportation. “Even though there are challenges, you need to face them. You need to overcome them.”
And challenges there are. Singh, who is a national aviation council member with the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WICCI), says that she faced hurdles when she was first starting out in her aviation career, notably in terms of salary inequality and the perception that women can’t do certain roles, such as technical and operational jobs.
She also reveals that a female student had a similar experience, having been advised to join an aviation research firm instead of seeking work as a ramp supervisor. The student was told “a girl cannot handle a stressful job at an airport or on the tarmac” and that she should stick to “working at an office in a research or consulting job as women are more suited for nine-to-five work”.
“We need to address that and change the perspective in peoples’ minds,” Singh says.
Notably, Singh highlights that out of the 126 airports in India, only five have female directors. “So you can see the challenge, how a woman has to work really, really hard to become an airport director or a dominant manager at the end of the day.”
Still, she is positive. “These challenges are temporary. These challenges are something which should not demotivate young professionals.”
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
The aviation industry may be grounded at the moment, but that hasn’t stopped Bharti Singh from wanting to encourage young people into the industry.
In her role with WICCI, Singh is helping out of work pilots to find new jobs and creating internships for young professionals.
She explains: “The situation of panic is there in the industry. WICCI has been working continuously on creating a positive environment.”
She is also working with other universities to provide some words of encouragement for young students just starting out.
She says: “The situation is a little difficult for every one of us who are working. But this is something which is temporary and we are bringing a lot of experts in the airport domain who are talking about solutions and problems.”
Singh originally wanted to become an airline pilot, but she found herself more interested in the operation and management side. So, she opted to study for an MBA with a specialization in aviation management.
“It is not about customer service, or only flying a vehicle. It’s also about how the operation takes place. Yes a pilot has a huge amount of responsibility, but at the end of the day, there’s a team handling the entire fleet,” Singh explains, before adding that her curiosity for airline operations has just continued to increase.
Singh does not regret the decision not to try and become a commercial airline pilot, explaining the joy she gets from knowing that she has inspired her students.
“At the end of the day, when I’m growing old, I want to retire and get calls from my students,” she says. “That is my motivation and my contribution to the aviation industry.”