Is aviation really just a men’s world?


Whilst the issue of gender equality may have disappeared off the radar for many aviation related businesses – seemingly it is no longer an issue – the reality is somewhat different. Statistics show that only 5 % of pilots are women. Officially there are no restrictions for women to learn and seek a career in aviation – however the low number of female pilots, might make one wonder – is aviation a men’s world?

The challenge of gender equality in aviation is a worldwide issue. One of the organisations, trying to raise the profile of gender inequality in aviation and encourage and empower women to challenge the situation is ‘Women in Aviation’. Currently organization’s representatives are travelling around the world with the ‘Women in Aviation’ exhibition highlighting the role women play and have played in aviation.

In addition to showcasing women who made a telling contribution to the development of aviation, the exhibition aims to gather information about women currently working in the aviation sector. The data will help to provide solid facts with which to challenge the complacency of the industry and its approach to gender equality as well as helping motivate more women to seek higher level jobs in the industry.

Organization that inspires

Recently a letter from a young girl, Hanna Schroff, reached the ‘Women in Aviation’ organization. In the letter Hanna explained her dream to become a Captain of the Airbus A380. Hanna has reached out to one of the German airlines with the query of what actions should be taken to help and fulfil this ambitious dream. Surprisingly, the airline replied, that Hanna cannot become a pilot because of her low height – 163cm.

‘Aviation simply enchanted me. I cannot imagine myself in any other position than a pilot. I am only 16 years old, but I am already sure what I want to do in my life. Apparently it is hard for society to accept women who reach for such goals. Hopefully I will become an example for the future generations’, comments Hanna Schroff.

While exhibition was touring in Lithuania, Baltic Aviation Academy has organised a meeting with Hanna to do discuss her career and education possibilities. And though there are number of high medical, psychological and various other requirements for those who want to seek pilot career, height is not one of them. It is much more important to be psychologically ready for such big responsibility to carry hundreds of people on board. At the moment Hanna is still studying in high school and considering her study options with the Baltic Aviation Academy.

The true barriers lie in the society?

Researchers have proved that there are no significant physical differences between men and women that would prevent female from becoming successful pilots. However the low statistics of women in aviation prove that barriers do exist. According to Mariola Ziolkowski, the main barrier for women is the responsibility for the family.

‘Some said that the working hours and the night shifts prevent them from joining the aviation. However, I must say that this is kind of contradiction, because at the same time 80% of the cabin crew are women! So how come working hours as a cabin crew are acceptable, but the working hours as a pilot are not? In my opinion we still have the stereotype that a woman’s role is to take care of her family and to support her partner’s career. Of course you cannot say that there are no women in aviation sector – there are, but there are so few who hold high managing or captains’ positions. Lack of confidence is the other reason why we see very few women in high positions. A lot of women even do not apply for them because they are afraid that they won’t be accepted. Women who manage to make it ‘to the top’ have to go through many barriers and face difficult situations. The first Emirati woman to reach the rank of co-pilot Salma Al Baloushi answered an incredulous foreign colleague on her first commercial flight. ‘He asked me, ‘You can fly this plane? I said, ‘I fly with my hands, not with my scarf … it covers my head, not my brain’, comments Mariola Ziolkowski.

There is a lot of research that shows that women are not satisfied with the current situation, but many of them do not take any actions to change this situation. ‘We do not try to teach women of what is right and what is wrong. We only seek that the achievements of other women should be acknowledged and set as an example’, explains Mariola Ziolkowski.

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