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Why Aren't There More Female Airline Pilots?

It’s a sad fact, but it’s a rarity to find women in the aviation industry. The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents pilots at major and regional carriers in the United States and Canada, says that women make up just 5% of its 53,000 members. Globally, it’s even worse — only 4,000 of the 130,000 airline pilots are women, according to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots. ( More...

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Pat McKinzie 6
I have been a professor of aviation in a university flight program for over 40 years. Through most of that time we had about 25% female students. These students general performed at the same level as male students, yet for years the percentage of female airline pilots remained at about 1%. During the same period pilot source study's show that airline pilot source changed from about 80% military to about about 60% civilian. If 5% of today's airline pilots are female we have some improvement in this area, however we are currently averaging closer to 15% female in our collage pilot programs.
JD345 4
People can take this and throw a big sociological fit all they want, but there's the undeniable reality that men do not have babies. Men don't get pregnant, they don't have babies, and they traditionally aren't expected to stay home for any meaningful length of time for their kids. So, that's more time to work up seniority lists, earn promotions, and otherwise move up the career ladder.

It's difficult for a lot of women to do that, and even when given the opportunity the reality is a lot of women totally voluntarily sacrifice hours, seniority, and other career-related progress, for their families. I know of two women in particular that had management jobs at two different Fortune 500 companies and voluntarily walked away because of their family concerns - they took a major household income hit to prioritize their families. It's not like there aren't real discrimination issues out there but these kinds of situations can account for a pretty decent portion of the wage gap everyone gets so fired up about all the time as if the only value anyone has is listed on their W2... that's a whole different conversation, anyway.

When you add in what the airline industry is like... well, I think all of us around here are either in the airline industry or close enough to it to know that it's not exactly the most family-oriented field out there. Heck, I know two guys off the top of my head who walked away from a regional airline because of their family.
JD345 3
As in other male-dominated professions, I think part of the reason why you don't see more women is simply the fact that it's so male-dominated that it's hard for a girl growing up to see herself in that kind of a job.

I know the field of law enforcement is very male-dominated, but because of a lack of female applicants -- at least around here sometimes they'll get 200 applicants and two or three of them might be women.
Jhon Lewis 1
That's a good point.
Bryce Johnson 2
American Airlines claimed at Women in Aviation that over the last couple years over 10% of their new hires are women. FWIW, my initial class at my current airline was 20% women. I feel like Im starting to see more women pilots and more male flight attendants.
30west 1
Bryce, thanks for the info. Congrats on the new job.
30west 2
A contributor to the lower percent of women number has to do with the senior pilot group at the major airlines. They were hired at a time when few women applied and hired and that group of pilots (the pre-1990 new hires) still represent a large portion of the total pilot group currently flying at the majors.

The 1990's saw a change in the new hire demographics with a much greater number of women being hired at the majors due to the major airlines being proactive in the hiring of women, some say giving them preferential treatment. That started to bring the percentage of women pilots at the majors higher.

Fast forward to September 11, 2001, the most recent Golden Days of hiring at the majors ended. Hiring at the majors immediately shut down and a large number of their pilots were furloughed. It took the rest of the decade to recall a large percentage of those furloughed pilots and many were still on furlough into the mid-2010's. Some of those deferred recall to a later date for many reasons.

The majors now have new hires filling classes.

To see how women are being represented today, I believe a better metric would be to see the demographics of the current new hire population at the majors and at the regionals which have become the main source of new hires at the majors. The military is providing a lower percentage of pilots as compared to the hiring boom of the 1990's. Important in the current new hire data would seem to me, to be the percent of male applicants and the percent of female applicants offered jobs. Hopefully, the percent of interviewees of each sex offered jobs would be similar.
Tom Roberts 1
Most commercial airline pilots historically have military backgrounds and until recent times female pilots, simply put, not eligible for pilot training.

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JD345 2
Try being a CDL trainer for a living, the worst ones are the men that think they're so much better of a driver than their wife but they can't drive a quarter mile without violating half of the traffic code.
Laura Stants 1
Oh, please. LOL

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I also was in the 2nd grade when I found out girls were different than boys...
Did they have cooties?
man, if that's how you feel, why don't you go somewhere else? you remind me of the guys i used to serve at mcdonalds in HS. they'd come in and complain every time "coffee too cold, ice too warm, not enough salt on the fries, too many ketchup packets in the bag..." and they'd say "every time i come here it's wrong.

they why do you keep coming back?

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