If you think that the United States and Europe have a higher proportion of female pilots, you’ve got to look homewards. India has the highest proportion of female commercial pilots in the world at 12%. The figure is much higher than the global average as according to International Society of Women Airline Pilots, women account for just over 5% of the pilots across 34 major international airlines. Even major national carriers like British Airways, Air Canada and Qantas Airways have respectively only 5.9, 5.5 and 4.3 per cent of female pilots.
According to Shweta Singh, a commercial pilot for 20 years, the change in attitudes took time as flying used to be a “male-dominated area”.
“The training and stressful work needed to become and work as a pilot require choices of women that go against most of the gendered expectations our society has of them at that age: to have babies”
In India, there is no gender pay gap in the profession as the pilot pay is based on seniority and flying hours under union agreements. The relatively high percentage of female pilots may also be attributed to the fact that India is the world’s fastest-growing aviation market — at 22%. Thus, airlines are recruiting more female pilots in order to solve the pilot shortage. According to Boeing, there is a demand for 790,000 new pilots globally over the next 20 years as air travel expands.
According to IndiGo, around 13% of their pilots are women — up from 10% over the last 5 years. The company says it also provides daycare along with an allowance to pregnant women equivalent to what they would have earned flying.
Around 12% of pilots at SpiceJet are women and according to its chairman Ajay Singh, there is a mandate for the figures to grow to 33% over the next three years.
Last year, Air India scripted history by flying an all-women crew flight from New Delhi to San Francisco.
We contacted Jet Airways, Go Air and Air Vistara and they are yet to respond to our queries.
(With inputs from Reuters)