Gender on the flightdeck: experiences of female commercial airline pilots in the UK
conference contributionposted on 07.05.2015, 12:23 authored by Faye McCarthy, Lucy Budd, Stephen Ison
The reasons for, and the implications arising from, the underrepresentation of women on the flightdeck of commercial aircraft continues to challenge national Governments, the aviation industry, and the academic community. Although some airlines have made concerted efforts to improve the gender balance of their flightcrew, female participation in the profession remains low. Of the 130,000 airline pilots worldwide only 4,000 (3%) are female and only 450 hold the command of Captain. The dominant historical discourse of airline pilots as assertive masculine figures may act to dissuade women from pursuing a career on the flightdeck and female pilots are often subject to sexist remarks and behaviour from colleagues and passengers. Given commercial aviation’s increasing growth worldwide and the concurrent increase in demand for highly skilled labour, the inability to recruit and retain female pilots represents a significant problem for both the sector and the wider economy as it will constrain growth, hinder aviation’s expansion by failing to capitalise on female skill sets, and delay the achievement of gender equality. Understanding the experiences of flightcrew is therefore vital in addressing this important research problem. Through the use of in-depth interviews with male and female flightcrew in the UK, this paper seeks to set the agenda in terms of future research. It identifies a number of obstacles to greater female participation and recommends that airlines not only focus on gender differences in learning, leadership and communication but that they also take steps to more effectively manage diversity in their workforce and actively promote positive representations of female flightcrew both within and beyond their organisation.
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