Even though the movement for women empowerment has been gradually picking up steam in the last few decades, there are still some industries that are unmistakeably male-dominated. Such industries include the aviation industry, where the female participation ratio is much lower compared to the male-female population ratio worldwide. In the United States, for example, a December 2016 study from the Federal Aviation Authority’s Aeronautical Center found that out of 584,362 pilots in the US, only 39,187 were women — translating to a measly 6.7 percent.1
Considering that the demands of the aviation industry can equally be met by both men and women, it makes good sense for the players in the industry to start tapping more into the women population to fill-up different working positions. After all, women comprise roughly half of the working force based on population statistics alone.
The most pressing issue that may prompt aviation companies to encourage more women to take to the skies is the impending pilot shortage on a global scale. According to a 2017 study by leading aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the world needs 637,000 new pilots until 2036 to answer to the growing demands for air transport.2
The main factors for this massive shortfall are retirement and expansion. With airlines acquiring more and more aircraft, the demand for pilots naturally increases. Asia has the biggest need for new pilots in the span of roughly two decades, amounting to 253,000. North America comes next with 117,000, then Europe with 106,000, 63,000 in the Middle East, 52,000 in Latin America, 24,000 in Africa and 22,000 in the Commonwealth of Independent States/Russia.3
With a massive gap to fill in order to avoid a pilot shortage crisis, aviation companies will be hard-pressed to look for prospects that can be trained to become pilots. Considering that the shortfall of pilots is becoming more significant, it is high time for the aviation industry to look into a large yet practically untapped sector of the population — women.
With the objective of encouraging an increased participation of women in the aviation industry, The 3rd Women in Aviation General Assembly will be hosted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on May 9, 2018, as a sidelight to The Airport Show which will be held from May 7-9, 2018.4
The conference is an initiative of H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chief Executive of Emirates Group. The Emirates chief has made a statement in UAE state media WAM that not only encouraged more women participation in the aviation industry but also recognized the key role of women in the industry’s development.
Hundreds of participants are expected to grace the said conference that will feature 20 speakers. Compared to other countries in the region, the UAE has been more accommodating when it comes to women participation in aviation. Recently, an all-female operated airline called LGO International FZC debuted in the UAE. LGO sells and rents private aircrafts to businesswomen who wish to travel in luxury.5
In other parts of the world, measures are already being taken to encourage increased women participation in the aviation industry. In the US, a bill seeking to create opportunities for women in aviation by providing pilot training, STEM education and mentorship programs was sponsored in the Senate last year.
In the UK, carrier airline easyJet launched the Amy Johnson initiative three years ago in an attempt to double the number of their female entrant pilots. British Airways also took the initiative to visit pilot schools and recruitment events to increase the number of their female pilots. These initiatives seek to alleviate some of the leading reasons why women hesitate to become pilots like exorbitant training costs, lack of visible role models and the prevailing misconception that being a pilot is only for men.6
Women have been serving in key positions in the aviation industry too, further proving that women can also excel not just as pilots or cabin crew, but as executives of aviation organizations as well.
Dr. Fang Liu
Dr. Fang Liu has been serving as the Secretary-General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) since being appointed in August 2015. She is the first woman to ever be appointed as ICAO Secretary General. Liu has a PhD in international law from Wuhan University in China and a Master’s degree in air and space law from Leiden University in the Netherlands. Including her current tenure, Liu has been serving at ICAO for more a decade.7
Carolyn McCall is the current CEO of British broadcast company ITV and former CEO of carrier airline easyJet. Even though McCall has moved on from the aviation industry, she did an excellent job as the CEO of easyJet for seven years. Under McCall’s leadership, the number of passengers of easyJet increased by 56% and the price of the company’s shares tripled.8
Thi Phuong Thao Nguyen
Thi Phuong Thao Nguyen is Vietnam’s first woman self-made billionaire and is the CEO of budget airline VietJet Air. She has an estimated net worth of $3.7 billion and her airline operates over 40 percent of all flights in Vietnam.9
As proven time and again in different fields of expertise, women are just as capable as men in excelling at what they do. It’s just a matter of being given the right opportunity in the right circumstances. With the impending shortage of manpower in the aviation industry, it might be the most opportune time for this male-dominated industry to turn to #womanpower.
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- Eyre, E. (21, February 2018). Getting more female high-flyers. Corporate Jet Investor. Retrieved from: https://corporatejetinvestor.com/articles/getting-womens-business-aviation-careers-off-the-ground-663/
- Pilot Outlook: 2017 – 2036. Boeing. Retrieved from: http://www.boeing.com/commercial/market/pilot-technician-outlook/2017-pilot-outlook/
- Thompson, P. (30, July 2017). Boeing Says the World Needs 87 New Airline Pilots Every Day. The Points Guy. Retrieved from: https://thepointsguy.com/2017/07/boeing-pilot-technician-outlook/
- WAM. (28, February 2018). With aviation sector taking off strongly, more women taking to the skies. Emirates 247. Retrieved from: https://www.emirates247.com/business/with-aviation-sector-taking-off-strongly-more-women-taking-to-the-skies-2018-02-28-1.666120
- Rogers, J. (28, January 2018). Emirates Woman. Retrieved from: http://emirateswoman.com/uae-get-women-airline-company/
- Choat, I. (08, March 2017). Why airlines need more female pilots to take to the skies. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/mar/08/why-airlines-need-more-female-pilots-to-take-to-the-skies
- Biography: Fang Liu. ICAO. Retrieved from: https://www.icao.int/DownloadDocsFix/liu_biography_en.pdf
- ITV names EasyJet’s Carolyn McCall as a new chief executive. (17, July 2017). BBC. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-40628869
9. Thi Phuong Thao Nguyen. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/profile/thi-phuong-thao-nguyen/