Report by Amanda Rose, founder of the Western Sydney Women, Future is Bright and Mentoring Women Aviation programs
Did you ever entertain dreams of flying an aircraft but dismissed it as too hard?
As one of the most technologically advanced and fast-paced industries to work in, aviation has long been associated with glamour, excitement, and innovation. No wonder then, that it has attracted some of the brightest minds and talents in history of which fabulous female pioneer Harriet Quimby, the first licensed woman pilot, and intrepid aviator Amelia Earhart are but two examples.
Beyond piloting an aircraft, the field of aviation today has a diverse range of career pathways that include engineering, maintenance, administration, security, technology, teaching and more. But the sad fact remains that women are no better represented in the field since humans first took flight in 1903.
Recent estimates by the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISWAP) show that as of January 2020, there are 9,746 female airline pilots operating worldwide, comprising a mere 5.26% of the total. Of these, only 2,630 (1.42%) are captains. Across the board, data shows that women in aviation are chronically underrepresented in a manner not seen in other professional industries.
Why do so few women and girls overlook aviation as a viable career option?
In a report on gender diversity in the aviation and aerospace industry commissioned by the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA), five key factors were identified as inhibitors of greater gender representation of women in aviation:
- A lack of opportunity for advancement or upward mobility
- A lack of female executives or board members, meaning there are too few female leaders as role models
- Systemic policies and practices that close off potential career paths
- Organisations that do not prioritise or promote diversity
- Challenges associated with biases i.e., fixed gender stereotypes of the roles of men and women
While it’s true that the number of women that are choosing to launch careers in aviation is increasing, there is no hope of levelling the gender gap without direct action to reduce the barriers to entry.
In a field where there is a constant demand for highly skilled professionals, having women comprise 26% of air traffic controllers, 18% of flight dispatchers and 9% of aerospace engineers isn’t good enough. And for women, a career in aviation imparts too many valuable and highly transferrable skills and experiences opportunities to pass up out of hand.
Aside from the fact that many women are missing out on a rewarding and exciting career they didn’t even think to consider in the first place, many organisations are missing out on potential star hires too. As the impact of COVID-19 lessens, air travel is bouncing back, and with the resurgence comes a demand for highly trained workers from a larger, and more diverse pool.
From a business perspective, diversity in the workforce tends to signal an attractive work environment which in turn attracts better candidates and creates a more competitive organisation. And when companies with a diverse workforce are 35% more likely to enjoy greater financial returns than companies that are non-diverse, it’s hard to argue with the logic behind the need to push for more women in the aviation field.
Thankfully organisations and governments are taking note. Recent government initiatives to shore up the number of aviation professionals are targeting women for extra funding and support and grassroots organisations are pitching in to support entry into aviation careers too.
With air traffic predicted to double in the next 20 years, there’ll be multitudes of jobs for the taking but women need to be placed front and centre to win them. By securing more investment in women to fill these roles, we can give them the same opportunity to savour the challenges and triumphs of a high-flying career.
For more information visit https://www.thefutureisbright.com.au/, https://www.mentoringwomen.com.au/ and https://www.westernsydneywomen.com.au/women-in-aviation