In recent years, the aviation industry has witnessed a remarkable increase in the number of women choosing to pursue careers as pilots, air traffic controllers, and maintenance technicians. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the global participation of women in these roles has risen from 4.5% in 2016 to 4.9% in 2021.
The statistics reveal interesting trends across different regions. “A number of different fields in aviation have slowly been gaining popularity among women,” shares Jainita Hogervorst, Director of Aerviva Aviation Consultancy, a Dubai-based international consultancy, specialising in aviation recruitment and document management. “Within the reported time period, the percentage of women pilots worldwide has increased from 3.6% to 4.0%, with the most significant growth witnessed in the Asia Pacific and Latin America/Caribbean regions, where the aviation industry is rapidly developing, and airlines are expanding their route network and flight programs. Notably, North America leads the way with 4.6% women pilots, followed closely by Africa and Europe with 4.1% and 4.0%, respectively.”
Among aircraft maintenance engineers and technicians, the percentage of women has risen from 2.7% to 3.0% globally. “The Latin America/Caribbean and Asia Pacific regions have experienced the highest increases in this field, with the latter boasting the highest global percentage of licensed female aircraft maintenance engineers and technicians at 4.4%, which is mainly influenced by high market demand for the specified vacancies as well as aviation industry’s development gaining momentum,” she says.
In the air traffic control domain, the number of women remains stable at around 20.6% globally, with notable increases in the Latin America/Caribbean and Middle East regions. Latin America/Caribbean leads the way with an impressive 31.8% of women controllers, followed by Europe with 21.4%.
Furthermore, gender disparities within the aviation industry are also apparent when it comes to top-level positions. Recent data from April 2023 reveals that among all IATA members, only 24 female CEOs were identified, accounting for a mere 8% representation.
Hogervorst believes that, despite the progress made, there is still much work to be done to achieve gender parity in aviation. “While the number of female pilots has shown consistent growth in recent years, the percentage of licensed female pilots remains relatively low. For instance, in 2022, women accounted for only 9.57% of all pilots globally. Moreover, the gender distribution in non-pilot aviation roles highlights a lack of representation in certain positions. Dispatcher and flight attendant roles continue to be the areas where women are most visible, while other positions, such as mechanics and engineers, show slower progress.”
A few factors contribute to the difficulties women face in pursuing aviation careers. “The perception of aviation as a male-dominated field can deter potential female candidates. The industry needs to address this challenge and foster an environment that encourages and supports women in aviation,” the Director of Aerviva Aviation Consultancy adds.
Nevertheless, there is cause for optimism. The historical trends reveal a steady growth in the number of women in aviation over the years. From 2017 to 2022, the number of female pilots increased each year, and the percentage of female student pilots grew by a significant 189% over the past seven years.
“The representation of women in aviation is not only important for achieving gender equality but also for benefiting from diverse perspectives and talents. As the industry continues to grow and evolve, it is crucial to encourage and support women who aspire to be part of the aviation workforce,” says Jainita Hogervorst.