Prepare for Take Off: Looking Ahead to a Brighter Future for Women in Aviation

Prepare for Take Off: Looking Ahead to a Brighter Future for Women in Aviation
Ian Davies

Prepare for Take Off: Looking Ahead to a Brighter Future for Women in Aviation

The number of women in aviation is, even today, considerably less than that of men. Thankfully there is a brighter future ahead for females in the industry, with a drive towards diversity, inclusion and equal opportunities for all.

For as long as there has been flight, there have been great women in aviation. From pioneers such as inventor Emma Lilian Todd, who opened America’s first female-focused aviation training club in 1908, and legendary adventurer Amelia Earhart, to the many women who build, repair, service and fly aircraft around the world every day, some of the biggest influences in the industry have been female.

However, the number of women in aviation is still considerably lower than that of men. Thankfully though, as the industry – along with the wider world – realises the importance and benefits of diversity, inclusion and providing equal opportunities for all, women are starting to find their wings in aviation.

Read on to learn more about the difference-making people, organisations and policies which are driving a better future for women in aviation, as well as the sort of opportunities that are available to talented females in the industry today.

Women in Aviation: The Challenges

In the UK, the number of women in aviation continues to be a challenge. For example, even as recently as late 2023, it was found that of the almost 30,000 pilots in the UK only 5% were female.  Meanwhile, the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter (WIAAC) highlights a well-recognised shortage of women studying STEM subjects and subsequently moving on to careers in engineering – including vital roles within the aviation industry.

But of course, the problems extend way beyond British borders. Women in Aviation International (WAI) – the world’s largest organisation dedicated to increasing the number of women in aviation and aerospace – report that women make up less than 20% of the global aviation workforce, across all the industry’s roles, pointing to dormant levels of female introduction to aviation caused by lack of education and opportunities.

Research carried out by WIAAC suggest the problems extend further than a shortage of education and opportunities however, with perceptions and expectations of careers in aviation – and the experiences of those already within the industry – impacting female participation too.

For example, 84% of females asked by WIAAC perceived that pay may not be equitable between men and women working in aviation – a potential inhibitor to the progression of women in the industry; whilst one-third of female respondents already working in aviation and aerospace believed they would potentially need to leave the industry to progress their career, with many citing negative experiences endured only by them and other females.

Women in Aviation: The Actions

Faced by challenges such as those outlined above, there is a global drive to ensure aviation becomes more inclusive and diverse, not only to ensure greater, fairer, and more diverse opportunities for all, but also to build a better, more sustainable future for the industry by attracting, retaining, and advancing the talents of women and minority groups around the world.

Driven by organisations such as the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter and Women in Aviation international, as well as key figures and companies including some of the biggest in the world, not just aviation, key objectives and goals have been set such as:

·         Investing in current and future workforces across aviation.

·         Building a diverse, inclusive, and sustainable industry.

·         Inspiring women and girls to pursue aviation careers, through education and employment opportunities.

·         Providing support at every step of the aviation career journey.

·         Promoting progression and gender balance for all.

And, whilst there is still plenty of work to be done, thanks to the dedication and commitment of everyone involved, we are already seeing results from the efforts already made. Insights from WIAAC’s Propelling a Gender Balanced Industry study found that almost all women in aviation they interviewed had been inspired by an early age to see an aviation career as fulfilling and exciting, and to make the most of their passion and drive for STEM.  

Women in Aviation: The Opportunities

Putting the spotlight on women in aviation (or rather the lack of) and the need to close the gender gap within the industry has already started to pay dividends, with companies across the sector – from airlines and air forces to manufacturing and engineering specialists – committing themselves to being more diverse and inclusive across their workforce and in the way they operate.

In the UK alone, over 250 aviation and aerospace companies – such as Airbus, BAE Systems and major airports including Heathrow and Gatwick – have become signatories of the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter, promising to provide roles for women in aviation from apprenticeship level upwards, and support the progression of females into senior roles, and ensuring a commitment to – and accountability for – driving diversity change.

British Airways, one of the major signatories, is an outstanding example of the efforts being made to make a difference in the diversity of aviation. Working toward their goal to achieve 40% representation of women at senior management level by 2025, and equal representation by 2030, they already reached 39% by the end of 2023.

Beyond senior management roles, BA are focused on diversifying their entire workforce, including in areas – such as engineering – which are more challenging to attract women. At Carbon60, we’re proud to support British Airways with their recruitment projects, including their diversity drive, providing our engineering recruitment expertise and knowhow to help find, hire, and develop talent for a brighter future for aviation.

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