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  • Writer's pictureLana

5 Reasons Why There Aren't More Female Pilots and How We Can Fix It

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

The world of aviation is men's world, where women are not such frequent flyers. This used to be the case with some other traditionally male-dominated professions, such as doctors and veterinary surgeons, but now we see more women than men train in those roles[2]. Similarly, in aviation things are starting to shift, and fast.

Flight schools encourage women to consider flying as a profession, while airlines and jet companies are doing everything they can to attract more women into their flight departments. But why aren't there more female pilots, and what can we do to change that?

The Apparent Reasons

1. Due to lack of visibility, women are a minority in aviation, it can be harder for them to break into this profession and be treated fairly.

When it comes to flying, women are often held to a different standard than men. “Men are assumed to be able to do their job well, until they prove they cannot. Women are assumed to not be able to do it, until they prove they can,” says Cheryl Pitzer, a captain at FedEx.¹

Female pilots tell many stories about being mistaken for a flight attendant, or having passengers express surprise upon seeing them, and then saying they would have not chosen this flight had they known a woman was behind the controls.

2. Growing up, women aren't taught much about how machines work and are believed to have less interest in physics and science.

A research study showed that although female and male students have similar levels of interest in the sciences and similar test scores, females more frequently report feeling less skilled in the subject and more frustrated. Whereas, male students felt as being more skilled and more confident, therefore presenting themselves as more capable.

Moreover, the researchers found that science teachers are likely unintentionally biased against female students and tend to spend almost up to 40 percent more time addressing male students than they do female students. [6]

3. There is a perception that it is more physically difficult for a woman to fly a plane than it is for a man.

It is perhaps for this reason girls who seriously consider profession of a pilot are often being told by career advisers that it is a man's job and they should pursue other options.

In reality, “We don’t have anything that limits our ability to fly, or rather, men don’t have anything that would make them better pilots than us,” says Maria Pettersson, a Swedish pilot for another low-cost European airline.¹

4. Women are typically less willing to be away from home and family.

Airline pilots can be away from home 3-4 days at a time, and many mothers do not want to sacrifice that much time being away from their children.

This can be especially challenging for new, breastfeeding mothers, as most major airlines do not offer paid maternity leave. As well, the airline industry is exempt from providing non-bathroom spaces for nursing or pumping and is still struggling with confusion on how to apply pregnancy accommodation rules to cabin crew, according to Fortune. [7]

5. Many female flight students drop out due to inability to finance flight training, as well as being poorly matched with a flight instructor.

Financing can be a major hurdle for both, male and female aspiring aviators. The cumulative cost of becoming an Airline Transport Pilot, for example, can be as high as $100,000.

Another major reason, according to a two-year U.S. study by Penny Rafferty Hamilton, is incompatibility between a student and an instructor. When a student picks a flight school on-line and is assigned an instructor randomly, in many cases the match is far less than ideal. [4]

And sometimes it is the instructor who drops out, due to the fact that pilots often work as flight instructors to build up their flight time so they can move on to commercial flying. This means the student has to start over with a new instructor, which can be discouraging.

Therefore, the barriers vary from lack of finances, difficulty choosing the right training provider, lack of visible role models[2] in the industry to gender biases and, ultimately, lack of support of women in a "masculine" profession.

What Are We Going to Do About It

The common opinion of women in the industry is that the change is slowly coming, and it is a matter of time and education for the paradigm to take a necessary shift.

The first logical step is to bring more awareness to the general population, and especially new generation of girls, that female pilots are not an anomaly, rather it is a profession women can be very successful at and enjoy doing. It would be worth mentioning, that given the increasing pilot shortage, right now is the best time to consider commercial flying as a career.

Many airlines and organisations supporting women in aviation send their ambassadors to schools and recruitment fairs, and organize events that give girls and women an opportunity to ride in or fly an airplane.

To address the work-life balance challenge airlines, such as EasyJet, offer flexible working hours and part-time contracts. [3] There are many professions that require one or both partners to work unusual hours, but in the end, it is mutual support and understanding that enable them to figure out logistics and keep the balance between professional and home life.

To solve the financing barrier and attract more people into commercial aviation some airlines created fast track programs, which at around $65,000 are considerably cheaper and more affordable than phased training through private flight schools. They take students from zero to Airline Transport Pilot certification in as fast as one year, and there is often an opportunity for students to get a part or all of their tuition reimbursed by the airline company.

In addition, a number organizations, such as AOPA and WAI offer a multitude of scholarships available specifically to female pilots and other minorities.

Wouldn't it be nice to be guided to the right flight school and the right flight instructor that suites your training style, career goals and availability? At Aviatri we understand that picking a flight school can be a confusing process, so we aim to create better matches between students and flight instructors with the goal to lower drop out rate and increase flight training satisfaction. We partner with female-friendly

Other barriers can be overcome by ....

"include lack of experience with, and knowledge of, mechanical systems, and a lack of map-reading experience. " These obstacles can be overcome, says Hamilton, in a variety of ways. General aviation training scholarships could be expanded for women over 50 who want to start or complete flight programs. (Most current funding targets a younger demographic, she says.) Female flight students could be encouraged to build confidence with more simulator time, and those with weak map-reading skills and little mechanical experience could be directed to online tutorials and hands-on workshops. Flight schools can create a more “female-friendly” atmosphere simply by posting photographs of pilots of both genders. [4]

Finally, it is important to strengthen the community " to encourage, support, and challenge fellow pilots in their careers" [1]

Conclusion... " Good - and equal - pay, flexibility, variety, challenge and travel are just some of the benefits of the job cited by women pilots. " [2] ...



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