International Women’s Day 2019: Striking a better balance in aviation

Friday 8th March is International Women’s Day and at this stage in my career at PrivateFly, I’m becoming more and more driven by the need to encourage young women into our industry. In private jet charter there remains a very big gender gap, at all levels and in all types of role – but most particularly in the boardroom and the cockpit.

Looking at aviation as a whole, pilot shortages are one of the industry’s biggest challenges over the next few decades, and there is a very real opportunity to plug that gap with more female pilots, who currently account for just 5 – 10% of crews. There’s some great work taking place in the airline sector here, with some signing up for targets and quotas – which if well-managed shouldn’t be seen as a risk to standards.

In non-pilot roles too, there are not enough females. At PrivateFly we have a more diverse workforce than many other companies in our sector, with 33% of our team female – including a number of senior managers.

PrivateFly team International Womens Day

Carol (front left) and some of PrivateFly’s team members adopt the IWD 2019 ‘Balance For Better’ pose.

While there are organisations committed to advancing women in business aviation specifically, our part of the industry has even greater challenges than the airline sector – with less awareness of career opportunities overall, regardless of gender.

It’s not so much about discrimination – I have rarely felt any gender barriers once inside this industry – but a failure to attract females in the first place. And this takes time and needs to start from a young age, to get girls aspiring to flying careers, just as boys have always traditionally done.

Aviation is a career chosen out of a long-held passion and we know how important role models are in sparking that from childhood – from family members through to industry figureheads.

At PrivateFly we send our team out regularly to local schools, youth groups and to universities, to talk about what business aviation can offer. We’ve had a number of successful female internships, some of which have turned into permanent roles. This is something I am committed to doing more of. And now as part of Directional Aviation, we can offer a pipeline of career opportunities across the aviation spectrum, both in Europe and internationally.

Marketing is the challenge here. Our industry needs to position itself more effectively, to get girls and women to seriously consider it as a career option, and to see and feel that it’s a career for them. This visibility is essential if we are to see the gender gap reducing in the years ahead.

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