Pilots are often male, but more and more women are now becoming pilots too. So this article asks, is it possible for a woman to become a pilot?
Since the first female aviators took flight back in 1910, women have had a strong presence in aviation and played a major role in the development of aircraft and flight.
Today, women are taking their place alongside men in the cockpit. They are flying planes, helicopters, and even drones. The question remains though: can a woman be a pilot, and why are there so few in the field?
Can A Woman Be A Pilot?
The answer is yes if she wants to be one. There are many ways that women can enter the world of aviation. However, there are still some challenges that stand in her way.
The first challenge is getting into the field. Many schools to this day tend to admit more boys than girls and a lot of companies tend to hire more men than women.
This however could also be down to the uptake of women in aviation, and so airlines are encouraging women to get into the field more than ever.
Entering the field is also difficult because women on a day-to-day basis face gender-specific social pressures, systematic barriers, and double standards.
There are also physical differences between men and women that make it seem difficult for a woman to learn how to fly. For instance, biologically a man’s body is made up of larger muscles that supposedly help him control his plane better.
On the other hand, a woman’s body is smaller and has less muscle mass.
That being said, ability should not prevent women from flying and as we explore in the next section, smaller muscle mass should not prevent or scare women from entering the field, as women even played a key flying role amid World War Two.
Moreover, no one attribute makes a male pilot better than a female, as a good pilot uses a mix of masculine and feminine characteristics such as communication, multitasking, and handling different personalities.
Strength isn’t everything and though it deters some women from entering the field, it should not come down to this alone.
Why Are There So Few Female Pilots?
On March 8, 1910, Raymonde de Laroche was the world’s first licensed female pilot and several female aviators followed.
However, in 2020 only 5% of pilots were women, and only 1.42% of captains were female, according to statistics from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots.
The amount of women captains in Europe would not fill a standard Boeing 747 and although airlines are encouraging women in aviation, you might be wondering why there are still so few?
One thing for sure is that it is not because of ability. Women played a key role in World War Two and the Women Airforce Service Pilots were able to ferry and test military aircraft. By 1944, it was proven that women could fly just as well as men.
On the other hand, General Arnold’s words did not help. At the beginning of the jet age, the role of women was still in the home. Airlines did not allow female pilots to be given jobs at all and it was as if female pilots during the war had been forgotten.
Back in the 1960s, Bonnie Tiburzi wanted to fly a commercial airline, but she was refused and told by one airline that they will never hire a woman so she should not contact them again.
In 1973, Tiburzi was finally offered a job with the commercial airline, American Airlines, and she was the company’s first female pilot on record.
She faced almost no opposition from her male colleagues but received a letter from the pilots’ wife saying she took a job away from a man who needed to provide for his family.
A large number of airlines are encouraging women to the flight deck, but with an estimated 804,000 pilots required to meet the 2038 goal, they need to do a lot more than simply encourage.
If airlines want to introduce more female pilots and up the percentages, they need to address the barriers that are stopping women from finding their place in the cockpit.
Women remain underrepresented in aviation and the reason behind this remains in fragments of a bigger cultural problem. They are stopping the airline industry from responding to a shortage of pilots.
How Are Women Being Encouraged Into Aviation?
To encourage more women to enter the field, there are mentorships, scholarships, magazines, and aviation organizations that aim to increase the 5% statistic.
Airlines are encouraging women to be role models to younger girls who aspire to be pilots, female captains (see also “How Many Stripes Does A Captain Have?“) are being welcomed with special efforts by their crew, there are more programs available that encourage female pilots into the field and there are even more options available to pay for a flight school that goes beyond regular scholarships.
Despite these efforts, it is more than just a pipeline problem and although there are fewer women in training to be pilots, women also have to face gender-specific social pressures, systematic barriers, and double standards that stop women from entering the field.
How Hard Is It To Be A Pilot?
The world of aviation has changed drastically over the past few decades. The advent of new technologies such as drones, autonomous vehicles, and space travel has made the skies much more in reach and opened up many opportunities for people in aviation.
However, the demand for pilots is still growing, especially for women pilots.
The biggest challenge facing women trying to become pilots is the lack of diversity in the profession. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 5% of pilots are women, and this means that most of the people flying planes today are men.
And while some airlines are making strides toward increasing the percentage of female pilots, the numbers are still low compared to the overall population.
Though there are more men in aviation than women, the demand for pilots comes from how hard it is to qualify as a pilot. With fees for school, exams, and licensing, the average cost of becoming a pilot is $200,000.
This may seem like a lot of money, and when you consider that the median household income in the United States is about $50,000 per year, it can be difficult to make ends meet.
That being said, for those who don’t have enough money or time to pursue a career in aviation, there are other ways to get involved in the field.
Many jobs within the aviation industry require less experience and fewer fees. From the assembly line to research and engineering, the most important part is if you are interested in the STEM field, don’t let anything hold you back!
We hope after reading this article you have learned a little more about women in aviation and how although women can be pilots, the percentage of women in aviation compared to men is a shocking 5%.
This is why airlines are now encouraging women pilots to take up a career in aviation with scholarships, welcome programs, and pilot career perks. If you are a woman interested in the field, why not give it a go and become a role model to young determined female pilots today!