The subject of women in the aviation industry has recently been brought into the spotlight with the heroic actions of female pilot Tammie Jo Shults. Last week she made an emergency landing in Philadelphia when an engine fan blade broke off and smashed a window, depressurising the cabin. Sadly one person lost their life in this incident, but there could have been many more lives lost if it wasn’t for the calm and skilful handling of the situation by Shults.

It’s pretty obvious that women are just as capable as men when it comes to both flying planes and handling difficult emergency situations. So why are there so few women in these roles? When we look at cabin crew, there are similar numbers of men and women working in these positions. However, when it comes to pilots, over 95% are male.

Gender imbalance is rapidly becoming an issue of the past

Go back a few generations and you can see how women were sidelined when it came to professions such as this. Gender roles were more clearly defined and there were certain expectations. The men went out and earned the money, the women stayed at home and brought up the children. Thankfully, these roles are now less defined. Many men stay at home to look after children, it’s not unusual for women to be career focused, and many are putting off having children in favor of a career. Education opportunities for girls are now equal to those offered to boys and girls are encouraged to pursue careers that would previously have been thought of as male careers.

Is it a tougher industry for women to get into?

Is the problem simply that women applicants for such positions are overlooked in favor of the male applicants by those doing the hiring, who are invariably men? It’s an interesting concept and if true, is basically an issue of discrimination that airlines should urgently address. Research has shown that on average, women are better at making decisions in stressful situations, and are also less likely to take risks. This sounds like the recipe for the perfect pilot. Airlines are now coming around to the fact that women can make fantastic pilots, and many are looking to redress the balance by actively training and hiring women in these roles with extra funding available for the expensive and lengthy training necessary to become a pilot.

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