Women have made significant contributions and played important roles in the development of the aviation industry from the very beginning of aviation’s history. Amelia Earhart is the first name that comes to mind when asked to name a prominent woman in aviation, but unfortunately, most people have trouble naming any other woman and their accomplishments in the history of aviation.
Today, the overwhelming perception is that women’s roles in aviation are relegated to the ticket counter and being a flight stewardess.
When considering all of the occupations in the travel, and hospitality industries, aviation has the lowest ratio of women to men and that gap is even wider when considering technical or leadership occupations.
According to most statistics, women make up only around 8% of airline pilots and that number is reduced to less than 5% for aircraft maintenance and high-level aviation management positions.
A few main reasons for these low numbers are a combination of the following:
For most of the past 50 years, a large number of aviation-related fields have been filled by individuals that had served and were trained by the military. Until recently, in many fields such as pilots, women were not allowed to serve in those occupations.
Many aviation occupations require STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) training, and many younger women have not been interested in obtaining training in those fields.
With few women in the aviation spotlight, young women do not have visual role models to aspire to be in those non-traditional fields. As more women become successful, they can serve as an example of what is possible in higher aviation positions.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, gender bias is still a very real component in the aviation industry. Women in aviation management positions face typical old-fashioned obstacles in their career paths in this traditional male-friendly culture and can affect the way they pursue the career opportunities available to them.
There is currently an abundance of opportunities for women in the aviation field. The aviation industry is facing a severe shortage of pilots and tens of thousands more will need to be hired in the coming years.
As far as a skill set, there is nothing performed in the cockpit that would require a necessity based on gender. The automated flight controls today require very little strength to operate and the abilities, training, and decisions that either male or female pilots make have proven to be equal. Many flight schools are starting to see an increase in female students which should continue into the future.
Other than the need for pilots, the manufacturing of newer aircraft also provides additional training and maintenance opportunities for women, especially in aircraft engineering, design and, quality inspections. There are also a large number of opportunities in other non-aircraft fields such as airport administration, airport security and, air traffic control.
To lay the best foundation for the advancement of women in the aviation industry, it is vital to expose young women to the occupations and opportunities that the industry can provide.
Many airlines have programs or scholarship opportunities to attract women into the industry. Airlines also hold special events for young women that provide hands-on experience in all aspects of the daily operations of the airlines and aircraft in flight to introduce them to and encourage them to seek aviation careers.
Although the diversity numbers are low today, the emphasis on women in the aviation workplace should produce expansive opportunities for young women to view a career in aviation in a positive light as we move into the future.
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