India's success in promoting gender diversity in the skies is inspiring the world to break barriers and cause a change for good. The Indian aviation industry is soaring to new heights, thanks to a transformative force: women. As the sector evolves, it continues to break traditional gender barriers, forging a future that's not only inclusive but also thriving.
India's aviation industry is creating opportunities, inspiring change, and setting a global example for gender equality.
Boeing’s 2023 Pilot and Technician Outlook (PTO) stated that the global fleet of commercial aircraft is expected to double by 2042. There will also be a surge in the required number of pilots. India is in a prime position to bridge this demand and supply gap with world-class aviators, a large number of such vacancies will be filled by women.
According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, on a global scale, India has the highest percentage of female pilots with 12.4 percent of all Indian pilots being women. This stands in contrast to the figures in the United States (5.5 percent) and the European Union (5 percent).
Role of Education and Mentoring
In India, the journey to gender equality in aviation began with education and mentorship. The country has integrated aviation-related subjects into its school and college curriculums. The presence of quality skill centres, accessible learning opportunities, and specialised curriculums is encouraging more women to explore the sector. This has allowed aspiring female aviators to learn from the National Cadet Corps, where students are trained to operate microlight aircraft.
In addition to government-run flying schools like Bangalore Flying Training School, the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Urban Akademi and JRD Tata Memorial Scholarships are also available for aspiring pilots. However, the journey doesn't stop at education; it extends to mentoring and professional guidance. Women in aviation are now receiving support through various mentorship programs, such as those organized by professional bodies like the Aeronautical Society of India, that not only help them navigate their careers but also inspire them to reach new heights. The guidance from experienced professionals in the field paves the way for them to thrive in their aviation careers.
India's Historical Pioneers
The present generation is also fortunate to have some incredible pioneers. The legacy of Indian women in aviation dates back to the early 20th century. In 1936, Sarla Thakral made her mark in the skies as the first Indian woman to obtain an aviation pilot's license. At the tender age of 21, she flew solo in a Gypsy Moth, her determination and skill inspiring many that followed and continuing to do so.
Prem Mathur made history in 1947 when she became the first Indian female commercial pilot, flying for the domestic airline Deccan Airways. Almost a decade later, in 1956, Durba Banerjee made her mark as the first woman pilot for Indian Airlines. These pioneering women have blazed the trail for future generations of female aviators.
Encouraging Women in the Aviation Industry
The increasing presence of women in aviation is not by chance. Workplace policies that prioritize safety and economic advantages play a pivotal role. Policies such as extended paid maternity leave and services like pick-up and drop-off create an attractive environment for women. These policies not only retain but also hire qualified female professionals. The result is a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Furthermore, the elimination of gender pay gaps is another critical aspect of encouraging women to follow a path into the aviation sector. In India, initiatives to close the gender pay gap are gaining momentum, ensuring that female professionals are compensated fairly for their contributions.
Evolving Career Paths
While female pilots and flight attendants are established, India's aviation industry recognizes that a broader spectrum of careers needs development. Roles like Air Traffic Controller, Aeronautical Engineer, Aircraft and Avionics Mechanic, and Ground Staff are emerging as viable options. The accessibility of these career paths, irrespective of location, is a significant advantage. Highly specialized curriculums and programs have also created awareness of these lesser-known roles.
The availability of these diverse career paths is an enticing proposition for women looking to make a mark in the aviation sector. It not only broadens the horizons for professional growth but also contributes to the industry's overall efficiency across engineering, supply-chain management, IT, data analytics, communication, research, and environmental studies.
Achieving gender equality is a collaborative effort involving airlines, airports, ground handlers, and various service providers. As a collaborative endeavour, the aviation industry in India can create a more inclusive and diverse workforce. The involvement of various stakeholders, from regulators to airlines and ground services, ensures that gender diversity is not just a goal but a reality.
India's progress in encouraging women in aviation aligns with the International Civil Aviation Organization's goal of achieving a 50-50 gender balance by 2030. Middle Eastern countries are following India's example, making ambitious pledges to boost women's participation. This global trend underscores India's role as a leader in promoting gender equality in aviation.
The global influence of India's initiatives in aviation extends beyond its borders. It reflects a commitment to gender equality that resonates with international organizations and neighbouring nations. The impact is not limited to India but extends to shaping a more inclusive global aviation sector.
A Thriving Ecosystem
Promoting gender-neutral opportunities in aviation points to healthier and more profitable businesses as well as elevating India's position on the global aviation map. By encouraging diverse talent, individual players can scale up, and the Indian aviation industry has the foundation to emerge as a formidable global player.
The thriving Indian ecosystem in aviation demonstrates how it values talent, competence, and inclusivity. It also recognizes that empowering female leadership in aviation is an essential requirement for progress and innovation of the industry as a whole.
Authored by Jaideep Mirchandani, Group Chairman of Sky One FZE.
Suggested reading: Aircrafts Don't Recognise Gender: IAF Wing Commander Khushboo Gupta