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March 7, 2022

Female aviation careers blocked by ‘old boys club’

A new report highlights that gender inequality in aviation remains an issue.

By Peter Nilson

According to a report published today, gender inequality in aviation remains prevalent, with 30% of female aviation professionals stating that they have been discriminated against due to their gender.

The joint report by the Royal Aeronautical Society and the University of the West of England considered survey responses from more than 700 airline pilots worldwide, 750 personal testimonials and eight hours of focus groups. The study investigates there are so few female pilot trainers and explores the barriers to female pilot career progression.

Captain Marnie Munns, a current airline pilot and one of the report’s authors, said: “Training is the first point of contact for the next generation of pilots and if we want to attract the best talent, we need to ensure we appeal to everyone with the right abilities irrespective of gender, ethnicity or age. 

“A much more diverse training department will ensure that there are visible role models and a more inclusive training environment for all.”

According to the report, the most common issues for female aviation professionals are sexism and sexual harassment, the presence of an ‘old boys club’, and a lack of female role models and mentors.

Other structural barriers include a lack of transparency around recruitment and selection, as well as the fact that the vast majority of airlines and training organisations refuse to allow pilot trainers to work part-time, which has a disproportionate effect on female aviation professionals.

Women make up just 5.26% of the global pilot workforce, but the number of female pilot trainers is even lower. In the UK just 0.9% of type rating examiners, a type of airline trainer, are women.

There is also an insufficient pipeline of female pilots to fill the pilot trainer roles, and some believe that women are simply not encouraged enough to apply compared to men.

An anonymous testimonial in the report from a female aviation professional stated: “From my experience, a lot of promotion in the industry is related to who you know. There is still very much an ‘old boys’ network’ and this needs addressing. People employ people who look and think like them.”

The report shows that 42% of women reported that they have been treated differently at work because of their gender. Worryingly, some male trainers in the open survey question expressed that they believe the pilot trainer role was not one that was suitable for females, although this view is not supported by the evidence in the survey.

“The issues highlighted in this report need to be urgently addressed. As the airline industry recovers from the devastating impact of Covid-19 it should look at any lessons that can be learnt, especially around part-time working, which has been shown to work during this period,” said David Edwards, chief executive of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

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