Yesterday was International Women’s Day and I spent part of the day wondering why we have so few pilots who are women?
Of the 53,000 members of the Air Line Pilots Association, only 5 percent are female. According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, there are only about 450 women worldwide serving as airline captains. Of the major airlines Qantas female Pilots are around 3.6 per cent while at American it is four percent. At British Airways it is just under six percent. Both they and Lufthansa (six percent female) have started campaigns to lure women pilots.
I have flown 989 times. The number of women pilots who have flown my planes over the last 46 years of flying must be fewer than half a dozen.
There are have been some trailblazing women pilots through history:
- Baroness Raymonde de Laroche was the first woman to receive a pilot’s licence in 1910
- Harriet Quimby became the first woman to pilot an aircraft across the English Channel
- Amelia Earhart in 1932, became the first woman to fly solo, nonstop, across the Atlantic Ocean
- Jean Batten was the first pilot to fly solo from England to New Zealand in 1936
- Emily Warner became the first female to command a major American passenger flight in 1976
- Beverly Burns in 1984 was the female pilot of a 747. She was motivated to become a pilot after hearing a first officer say “Women are just not smart enough to do this job.”
A couple of years ago, the pilot of my Qantas domestic flight welcomed us aboard over the PA system. She advised us that the plane would be under the command of her first officer for this sector. When the co pilot began speaking, she gave us the usual details of flight times and temperatures etc. Half listening to her, I looked around and realised that the whole crew was staffed by women. This historic event has occurred once in my almost one thousand flights.
I wrote last Wednesday, about the bizarre passenger who recently gave a Westjet pilot a note saying a cockpit is “no place for a woman“. Ironic this took place in the week before International Women’s Day, 114 years after a woman first got a pilots licence. This nonsense has got to stop. We need to support women in flying schools, in the air and captaining our planes. There may be a pilot shortage looming- this is one way to fix that problem!