Social taboo hovers global aviation; Why it has only 3% women pilots?

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The world is reeling under the power of women and acknowledging them in building a healthy and happy society. With the news of Indian Air Force releasing its first batch of fighter pilots in the month of June, the fact that there are only 3% women working as pilots on commercial airlines comes as a shock.

Consider this, a whopping 97% of all commercial pilots in the Global aviation industry are males, which as per The International Society of Women Airline Pilots, means 4000 out of 1,30,000.


Desiding whether the aviation fraternity is sexist is a story in itself. Helen Richey, who became the world's first female pilot "to fly a commercial airliner on a regularly scheduled mail route" , had to leave her job merely 10 months after her recruitment because of the behaviour of her male colleagues.

She was also barred from being a member of the and was forbidden from flying in anything other than fair weather. Ironically, she was the one who crawled onto the wing of a plane she was flying to repair a tear. She also spent years flying stunt planes.

In the initial years, women failed the measuring criteria for being a pilot that required a certain height and physical strength. Even if they qualified, it was the general belief that they may not handle stress levels ruled them out from the crew.

A changing scenario

While things have changed a lot these days, there is still some repulsion from the passengers. Many commercial airlines are now promoting the recruitment of women pilots. British Airlines, for instance, is increasing the number of females applying for the given positions in order to even out the numbers.

Moreover, the measuring criteria is also not narrowed. One has to be able to fly the simulator successfully during the interview process.

However, the numbers are still staggering. So, what holds them back? Experts site the following:

[Read: India to have first women fighter pilots on June 18: IAF chief Arup Raha]

1. Lack of role models: Interested women do not have role models as advertisements and real life stories of pilots do not have any account of a woman.

2. Domestic life over erratic timing and frequent travelling: Young women do not see pilot as a career option because they have been trained to understand that this is a man's job. They would rather see themselves managing the household or doing jobs that suited their lifestyle.

In a study conducted by the British Airways, it was found that while young boys dreamt of being a pilot and it was the second most sought-after profession among them, women did not even mention it. Precisely, why there was a staggering difference in the number of men and women learning to fly in flight schools, which amounts to 97% versus 3% respectively.

[Read: Chinese combat women pilots date Flying Leopard]

Yvonne Pope Sintes - one of the first set of female pilots to score the skies said,"Initially when I first started, one of the pilots said he would resign if a woman joined, but fortunately he didn't. And I then I did find afterwards that the experienced pilots were happy to accept me and help me. Women need to be enthused by the idea of flying when they are young. You've got to have a real vocation for flying and maybe young women don't realise what possibilities there are nowadays. I hope that many more will go into it as a job," she says.

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