Why does global aviation has only 3% women pilots – Is there any Social Taboo?

With the World celebrating the International Women’s Day, everyone today is acknowledging the power and contribution of women in building a healthy and a prosperous society. Also the Indian Air Force will be releasing its first batch of women fighter pilots in the month of June this year. But the fact that only 3% women work as pilots in commercial airlines comes as a big shock.

This means that 97% of the commercial pilots in the Global aviation industry are males. Does this fact point towards the existence of a social taboo in Global aviation? Helen Richey, world’s first female pilot to fly a commercial airliner on a regularly scheduled mail route, left her job 10 months post her recruitment due to the behavior of her male colleagues. She was also forbidden from flying in anything other than fair weather.

During the initial years, women generally failed the physical criteria in terms of height and physical strength that were required for being a pilot. Even if they qualified the criteria, then the general belief that women can’t handle stress levels like men, ruled them out from being a part of the crew. But with time many things have also changed. Commercial airlines are also promoting the recruitment of women now. In order to even out the numbers, British Airlines has increased the number of females applying for the given positions. Also the measuring criteria has not been narrowed down. One should be able to fly the simulator successfully during the interview process. But in-spite of all this the number of women in global aviation is still very less. So what is actually holding them back?

Maybe a lack of women role models in aviation. The interested women do not have women role models and real life stories of women pilots to look up to. Also young women don’t see being a pilot as a career option as their minds are trained to understand it as a man’s job. Most of the women would rather opt for jobs that suit their lifestyle and with which they can manage their household as well. The erratic timing and frequent travelling involved in aviation hinders women from choosing it as their career. A recent study conducted by the British Airways found that for young boys being a pilot was the second most sought after profession whereas the women didn’t even mention it any where.

One of the first set of female pilots who touched the skies, Yvonne Pope Sintes said that “Initially when I first started, one of the pilots said he would resign if a woman joined, but fortunately he didn’t. And then I did find afterwards that the experienced pilots were happy to accept me and help me. Women need to be enthused by the idea of flying when they are young. You’ve got to have a real vocation for flying and maybe young women don’t realise what possibilities there are nowadays. I hope that many more will go into it as a job”.

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