Globally, just 5.18% of commercial pilots are women, according to the Air Line Pilots Association International trade union.
In the UK, around 4.77% of airline pilots are women.
Indian airlines employ the highest proportion of female pilots at 12.4%, according to the latest statistics from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISWAP).
Regional Indian airline Zoom Air is currently the organisation leading the way. ISWAP says it employs nine female pilots out of a total of 30.
Communications chairwoman for ISWAP and retired captain Kathy McCullough said that Indian companies have “aggressively encouraged more women to become airline pilots in what they see as an upcoming pilot shortage.”
A report by Boeing also found that with a growing middle class in India, commercial air travel is expected to become more frequent.
How much on average do pilots earn?
As reported by the BBC, commercial pilots’ salaries depend on the airline, type of aircraft they fly and their level of experience. Starting salaries can range between £20-30,000 for those in the cockpit.
For experienced captains, pay can reach more than £140,000.
That’s higher than the £105,250 you could earn as an air commodore in the Royal Air Force, according to the National Careers Service in the UK.
What about the gender pay gap?
Earlier this year, UK companies with more than 250 employees were asked to report their gender pay gap figures. British airlines were shown to have large gender pay gaps, which is the percentage difference between average hourly earnings for all male and female staff. The average median pay difference between men and women was 9.7% across all industries.
It was Ryanair who reported the largest gender pay gap for an airline, at 71.8%, while EasyJet had a 45.5% pay gap. They did however say that men and women in the same roles are paid equally.
Much of the gap can be explained by one thing – the proportion of male pilots.
For example, EasyJet pilots make up a quarter of its UK employees, with 6% of its UK pilots women – a role which pays £92,400 on average. Lower-paid cabin crew, where 69% are women, earn an average salary of £24,800.
The airline says it has set a target that 20% of new entrant pilots should be female by 2020.
What other obstacles do potential pilots face?
Potential airline pilots need to hold a Class 1 Medical Certificate prior to starting their training. Most training schools and airlines also require five GCSEs and two A-levels in the UK.
If you meet the above requirements, there are several ways to take off in your career:
- Getting an Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence, or a ‘frozen ATPL’. It can take around 18 months to finish the course, which is a mix of theory and flying. Costs for the course can range between £60-90,000. After at least 1,500 flying hours, you can then apply for a full ATPL.
- Doing a degree in aviation ,which includes pilot training. But a degree isn’t essential and costs for flight training come on top of tuition fees.
- Taking a higher level apprenticeship in professional aviation pilot practice.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association has highlighted difficulties which aspiring pilots can face when funding their training.
It has said that the high cost of training can deter those from less affluent backgrounds.
Initiatives have also been set up to encourage young women’s interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, which can be useful for those with the ambition to become a pilot in the future.
Captain Kate McWilliams, an EasyJet employee, became the world’s youngest female airline captain at the age of 26.
Speaking about pursuing a career as a pilot, Captain Williams said: “A lot of people think it’s a highly technical job, which puts them off. But a huge amount of it is being good with people. As a captain, you’re a people manager. There needs to be a change in perception around the job.”
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