Why aren’t there more female airline pilots?

We’ve mentioned issues and barriers specific for female or would be female pilots in the past (see Teaching women to fly and What are the training barriers for female pilots?) but Cathy Gale has posted a lengthy article from CNN Travel on the Winged Victory Women in Aviation Webzine about the lack of female airline pilots that is well worth reading by both current and would be female pilots. The CNN Travel article included a couple of startling statistics about female airline pilots, including:

  • Women make up just 5% of the 53,000 members of the Air Line Pilots Association, a pilot association for pilots at major and regional carriers in the USA and Canada.
  • Only about 450 women worldwide are airline captains according to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots. In other words, they are pilots in command who supervise all other crew members on a flight.
  • Cathy herself also wrote at the beginning of her post a news article from 2008 about UK pilot Lynn Barton which mentioned that out of the 10,000 airline pilots in the UK, only 175 were women.

The CNN Travel article then noted that one of the biggest hurdles women face to become pilots are financial obstacles as going the civilian route to become an airline pilot can cost up to US$100,000 in training while women who do train to become any type of pilot tend to do so because of a family connection to the profession or to aviation.

Hence, we want to ask you our readers who regularly fly on commercial airlines a simple question: When was the last time you flew and heard a woman’s voice over the loudspeaker? What airline was it and where were you flying to?

3 Responses to Why aren’t there more female airline pilots?

  1. Jen March 23, 2011 at 01:16 #

    I only remember seeing one female airline pilot – the copilot on a Delta flight between DTW and PHL.

    I don't think the cost of training is enough to account for the huge disproportion between male and female pilots – men have to deal with the high costs, too. It has to do more with women in aviation, or who are trying to get into aviation, being treated differently than men – being assumed right off the bat to be less competent, less serious, less confident, and evaluated thusly.

  2. Sue March 25, 2011 at 16:38 #

    I flew for American Eagle as First Officer several years ago based in Puerto Rico. Out of 300 pilots on that base there were a maximum of 10 – 12 women at any particular time. The entire four years that I was a First Officer, I flew with one female Captain. Any comments I received from the passengers were oftentimes of surprise at seeing a female in a pilot's uniform and flying the airplane…but the comments were always positive.

    This is a very good subject for discussion. I don't have the answer, but I will say the training and working environment could be vastly improved to be more appealing to women. More women in the field would also likely make it a friendlier environment and attract other women.

    As a flight instructor, I encourage women to expand their horizons and realize they can do anything they set their minds to and they can achieve their goals and dreams.

    http://www.skytrekker.net http://blog.skytrekker.net

  3. Christina Halli April 18, 2011 at 14:01 #

    I am an M-88 Captain at Delta. When I upgraded two years ago I was told I was one of 18 females in the left seat out of over 6500 pilots on the seniority list (this is before the NW merger integration). When I was hired in 1991 I was told I was number 55. Why so few? At that time Delta hired mostly ex-military and the military didn't train us until 1978. Why so few in the left seat? Most of my female peers choose to stay senior in the right seat so they can balance marriage and childcare with their careers (I stayed there for 18 years for that reason).

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