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Closing the Aviation Gender Gap in the Cockpit and the Boardroom

Closing the Aviation Gender Gap in the Cockpit and the Boardroom
Sharon Hsu

The aviation industry as a whole exhibits a large gender gap in the cockpit, the engineering corps, and the boardroom. Facing looming pilot shortages and increased scrutiny, many in the industry are now vowing to recruit, train, and promote more female pilots, mechanics, and executives, and to work towards parity in pay and gender representation.

For many female pilots, mechanics, and would-be executives, the aviation industry is still a boys’ club. Reuters reports British Aviation Minister Liz Sugg as saying that fewer than 5 percent of pilots for UK airlines are women. Globally, the numbers aren’t much higher. “There are fundamental gender issues in aviation and aerospace,” Sugg says.

Systemic change may be coming, however, especially as the industry faces a pilot shortage that is curtailing many carriers’ growth. The uproar last month when the head of Qatar Airways said a woman could not do his job reveals that the call for increased female representation also reaches into the boardroom.

Women in the industry think it’s high time. Charlotte Pederson, who was the first female pilot in Denmark’s air force and currently serves as chief executive of Luxaviation Helicopters, remarked, “We can’t just recruit from half the population.”

Recruitment is one thing, while retention is another. Critics point to large pay gaps between men and women in aviation as well as a lack of gender parity in upper level management as barriers to overcome.

Insiders and airline carriers are seeking to understand where this gender gap comes from and how to address it moving forward. At a recent industry conference in the UK, hundreds of executives attended a panel on this topic; over 50 aviation and aerospace operators signed a pledge to set internal targets for gender diversity and inclusion and to increase the number of women in their senior leadership positions. Reuters reports that easyJet has set a target to increase their number of female pilots to 20 percent by 2020, and other airlines have posted similar goals.

[Photo: Getty Images]

View Comments (3)


  1. JackE

    July 21, 2018 at 1:27 am

    Hey, let’s pick who is qualified to fly jet aircraft by identity politics instead of skill.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  2. kb9522

    July 23, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    My safety is not something you get to sacrifice for your social experiment. Just hire the most qualified person for the job, period. Unbelievable.

  3. I'mOffOne

    July 24, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Why would you assume that the reason behind the lack of women in cockpits is an inherent lack of ability in women? The initiatives are studying the reasons for the disparity, and not a single person has said that they would support easing certificate requirements to increase diversity. Instead, they’re doing things like telling school age girls they can be pilots (since a lot of people tell them they can’t), and trying to address the reasons why a lot of qualified women leave the industry (sexual harassment, work/life balance).

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