India has surpassed the global average in hiring female airline pilots, according to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots. The percentage of female pilots in India is twice as high as in most Western countries, including the United States and Australia. The Society also revealed that, globally, women make up less than 5 per cent of pilots.

India has the highest proportion of female commercial pilots (12 per cent) in the world 

There’s no denying that there are multiple stereotypes attached to jobs, designations, gender and the system. Our country has seen it all. Today, however, these stereotypes are being shattered one by one, by young girls and women, who are capable, hard-working and deserving of every title.

It’s interesting and thrilling to see similar acceptance in the airline sector in India. Our country has the highest proportion of female commercial pilots in the world at 12 per cent. More women, now, are aspiring to become pilots and there’s no stopping them.

The scene two decades ago

Shweta Singh, a Jet Airways pilot, wanted to become a pilot in India 20 years ago. She not only had the difficult task of persuading her parents in letting her pick an uncommon profession for women, but also had to handle unwelcoming male colleagues in the cockpit.

Today, it is much easier to take up this career, Shweta told Reuters. She reflected on how it was difficult to just enter a male-dominated area. She, however, believes that society has changed a lot and become more open to women joining this profession. Singh is a senior trainer at Jet Airways Ltd and on temporary assignment to India’s aviation regulator as deputy chief flight operations inspector.

Recruiting more women

Planemaker Boeing Co estimates a need for 790,000 new pilots globally over the next 20 years, double the current workforce, as air travel rises. The demand for pilots globally is soaring. It’s a given that with the kind of growth, India is the world’s fastest-growing aviation market, with domestic capacity growing 22 per cent in the first half of the year.

Recruiting more women is an obvious way to help solve the pilot shortage. Now, the question is will social constraints — still present in some parts of the country — help work towards the goal?

“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,” said Maria Bucur, a professor of history and gender studies at Indiana University.

Gender parity

Reports say that pilot pay is based on seniority and flying hours under union agreements, therefore, making it one of the rare professions in India where there is no gender pay gap

About 13 per cent of the pilots at IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, are women, up from 10 per cent five years ago, the company said in a statement. Some of IndiGo’s 330 female pilots are also managers. SpiceJet chairman, Ajay Singh, in this year’s Farnborough Airshow in Britain, said, 12 per cent of pilots are women, including some department heads, and there is a mandate to grow that to 33 per cent in the next three years. He also revealed how the company also gives women a fixed monthly flying schedule.

Moving forward

A year after graduating from flight school in 2002, Rupinder Kaur struggled to find a job. She wondered whether spending a lot of money to get her flying licence had been a blunder. It took her a to finally land a job at a regional airline, Air Deccan.

Kaur believes that now, with India’s aviation market booming, finding work is easier. The 37-year-old is a pilot at IndiGo.

She suggested that airlines should ensure women make up a certain percentage of their workforce, especially in piloting. “It is still not that easy for us. We have to give our 200 per cent,” she told Reuters, because women are expected to efficiently manage families and jobs.

Recruiting more women will not only open doors for young girls to dream and achieve, but also boost India’s growth economically

Management consulting firm McKinsey & Company reported that women contribute 18 per cent to India’s gross domestic product, and only a quarter of India’s workforce is female. Recruiting more women to work could help India boost its GDP by 18 per cent, or $770 billion, over the usual annual growth, McKinsey said.

Bombay Flying Club’s principal and chief instructor, C. Kumar, said that there’s more acceptance of the idea of female commercial pilots. “The number of women in the classroom has grown to about 25 per cent from less than 10 per cent five years ago,” he added.

Yes, the number of female pilots in India will keep rising. There’s no doubt that society is changing. However, we need even more acceptance towards women making a career in the aviation sector.

Also Read: Two Indian Pilots Embark On Flying Trip Across World

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