Are Women More Likely To Be Disadvantaged In The Aviation Industry


Inequality based on gender has historically plagued societies and economic activities. In contemporary workplace, despite years of advocating and mounting awareness campaigns against any form of discrimination and inequality, evidence show sexist and discriminatory practices still exist. Aviation industry has one of the least even distribution of gender in workplace with women being as low as 4% in some careers such as pilot and flight engineers. It is reported that the cause of low number of women in the industry to several factors such as culture practices, sexist environment, lack of motivating factors of women, limited career development opportunities, and culture of perceiving women as less competent. In this study exploring discrimination and disadvantage faced by women in the aviation industry, a semi-structured online survey where potential participants were invited to participate in filling and complete the questions via google forms, an online survey platform. Sixty-three responded and successful completed the survey. According to the participants, there exist a huge gap in number of women employed and developing career in the aviation industry. The findings found widespread systemic sexism and discrimination linked to structure and practices in the industry. For women in the industry, the finding indicate limited career development opportunities available to them, low income compared to men colleagues with same jobs, not involved in key decision making, and being perceived less competent. Collectively, the industry provides no avenue and roadmap for them to growth and develop a career unlike their men counterparts.

Chapter 1: Introduction:

Traditionally, women have faced discrimination in workplace and coupled with disadvantaged towards attainment of qualifications required for a particular job occupation and career. As illustrated by Bobbitt-Zeher (2011) and Cleveland et al. (2013), women has had history of not being allowed to hold certain job occupations or work in certain areas ranging from science and technology, military, engineering, construction, and aviation industry to name a few. Despite recent development in the few decades, women still face significant obstacle in entry and advancing careers in some fields. Globally, nearly all countries have enacted laws outlawing any form discrimination in workplace that include gender and sex, and being protected as a civil right. However, free labour in employment labour exerts development and advancement of some individuals due to systemic obstacles (Roebig, 2020). Arguably, one can be afford a right to work but growth towards self-determination and actualisation in an environment that historical engineered to discriminated would significantly disadvantage one over their counterparts. In the United Kingdom and, similarly in the United States (US), the labour laws premises the structure on human right against discrimination and disadvantaged including in workplace. However, this is not the case on some industries.


Gender inequality in workplace touches organisational structures, cultures, processes, and practices. In most industry, the inherited structures that include policies, cultures, and decision making mechanisms are in such that they limit hiring, pay, training, and conducive environment for career advancement. A survey conducted by Powell and Sang (2015), found that human resources practices including a sexist decision-making inclines the structure nature, leadership, strategy, and organisational climate to a gender biased. Moreover, the discrimination in workplace context has ripple effect going beyond the practices at human resource level but also fusing into interaction, socialisation, and engagement among the employee and with decision makers. Breza et al. (2018) notes that gender inequalities can make a workplace an inhospitable place for particularly women. McCall and Percheski (2010) reported that pay disparities affecting women earnings, limited career growth opportunities, absence of mentoring and psychological support systems, environment limiting individual input, and lack of appreciation and reward for the input make is traceable back to gender discrimination (Dunham, 2017; Elwér et al., 2013).

Research by Pew Research Centre (2017) on gender discrimination in workplace reported that four-in-ten working women in the US face discrimination ranging from earning less than male colleagues despite holding and doing similar jobs, perceived less competent, repeatedly overlooked for promotion or appreciation. As stated by Parket and Funk (2020), 25% of the working women say they earn considerably less than male counterpart while male earning less than women in the same job descriptions were 5%. In additional to widespread sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances from male colleague at workplace, difference in education levels and experiences has been cited for discrimination. The findings show that women with post-graduate degree experienced discrimination than women with less education. It has been reported in a male dominated area, colleague perceived educated and skilful women ‘bossy’ and intimidating to work with (Parket and Funk, 2020). Horowitz et al. (2018) indicates that 57% of the women with post-graduate degree experienced some discrimination at workplace. Mckinsey reported that despite progress in advancing equality in the workplace across different industries, gender parity is yet to be attained particularly in leadership, and technology and science industries.

gender parity

The belief that women are less ambition with their career development and in the workplace had dominated the working environment, however several has refuted the belief. Among the survey women in the US, the findings indicate only 3% showed lack of ambition with their careers while the rest ranged ‘somewhat ambitious’ to ‘very ambitious’ (Connley, 2020). Despite all these research showing similar input and performance of women being similar to those of male counterparts, the parity remains low.

Women ambition in workplace

In the aviation industry, a report by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, 2016) indicated that there were 12,969 commercially licensed (CPL) pilots females compared to 253,975 male counterparts, an approximately 5.1% CPL pilots. However, the report further stated that 3,200 women are employed as either pilots or flight engineers while men are more than 73,000 (FAA, 2016). In the UK, according to the UK civil Aviation Authority, 4.3% of the UK airline pilots were women in 2017, a slow increasing 3.4% in 2008 (Centre for Aviation CAPA, 2018). Moreover, similar findings are found for other occupations in the industry that include flight engineer, flight attendant, dispatchers, remote pilots, and flight instructor all having significantly low percentage distribution compare to men.

Rationale and Justification

There is significant research that suggests that women are more likely to be disadvantaged in industry than men (Forbes, 2020) and (Seligson, 2019). The report by Forbes (2019) provides the rationale for this report, it shows explicitly that women are much more likely to be overlooked for leadership roles and that there is still a deficit of women in workplaces. It supports the argument that women have continuously had to work harder than men to prove themselves worthy of being part of the working industry. In addition, according to nternational Air Transport Association (IATA, 2020), many women feel less able to access opportunities that men may be given freely. IATA has recently signed a gender equality charter to ‘create more opportunities for women in the aviation industry’ (Appleton, 2019). This is because IATA wants to ensure that women are not deterred from the industry due to their gender. It aims to make them look at a career in aviation in a new light and let go of any fears they may have of feeling as though they will not fit in. They have recognised the inequality between men and women in the industry and wish to promote a more balanced workforce. To further aid women, there are many support systems in place for women. One example is the Women in Aviation website which is ‘dedicated to the encouragement and advancement of women in all aviation career fields and interests’ and to provide a platform where women can seek support.

Research Aim:

This report aims to explore the challenges that women may face in male-dominated industries, focusing on Aviation industry.

Research objectives

The aim of this study is support by the following objectives

To review critically the concept of equality and discrimination in workplace

To investigate the challenges faced by women under gender discrimination in workplace

To evaluate challenges faced by women in male dominated aviation industry

To appraise in attempt to understand issues associated with the integration of women as support measures into the aviation industry

Chapter 2: Literature review

This literature review chapter analyses critically the findings and arguments held by other scholars on areas related to discrimination particularly based on gender, inequality in workplace, and women in men-dominated fields. Following a critical review, the sections identifies the gaps in literature, that in turn informs the methods and approaches to be adopted in methodology section.

Inequality as a general term

Berg et al. (2018) described inequality as a phenomena where unjust distribution of resources and opportunities among people within a given setting that include social, organisation, company, or nation. According Alvaredo (2018) , notable inequality is unequal distribution wealth and income in given nation leading to disparity between the rich and poor, secondly, uneven playing field among individuals in a given society setting based on such attributes as race, gender, or religion. As illustrated by Atkinson (2015) and Ridgeway (2014), inequality is net new but rather existed for decades if not way back before records where kept. However, the inequality being observed in the current societies and workplace have morphed into uneven distribution in income, pay, education access, and career developed due to difference in beliefs, gender, occupation, racial, and religion. Racism is one way that a person or a group of people may face inequality due to their race (Bolin, and Kurtz, 2018). One example of a group which may face racism are people who classify as part of BAME. BAME stands for black, Asian and minority (Adjei-Darko, 2021). Prevalence of racial inequality in not only developed countries such as United Kingdom (UK) or United States (US) but also such countries as South Africa, Rwanda, Peru. Essentially, racial inequality is observable in any country with more than one race that create and develop into perceived some superior than others, defined under hierarchical settings. Although, in some nations, communities have learned to coexist harmoniously with each other, in others, shortage of resources has been hypothesis as main cause of race inequality and racism. However, according to RFE, the issue of equality particular based on race in more complex than being described based on resources, power, and superiority in a given society. In the past, individuals from different race would easily be castigated not just of less humanity standards but evil and outcast. Traditionally, discrimination based on race was rooted on religious beliefs, practices, and scripts, and, although still practices in society regions, cited by some people of a different race to mistreat, enslave, and rendering of human rights. Coulter (2019) illustrated that hierarchical placing of human went beyond physical appearance (skin colour) to include gender, beliefs, and social classes.

Sayce et al. (2012) argued that inequality perceived in the scope of ‘systemic oppression’ of a group based on distinctive physical features or ideological beliefs can be traced back to individual self-interest, scientific racism (for instance believe a group of individuals are less intelligent), and advancing status quo for instance systemic inequality in income, education, and occupation. Additionally, behaviour where some people beliefs that other do not uphold a given perceive norms and traditions, and established structures (Gimpelson & Treisman (2018), Piketty (2015), and Sen, & Economic, (2016). In the past, there have been many acts of violence against people who come from non-white ethnicities simply due to race (BBC, 2021). Racism also exists in most industry. Khan (2020) explains that many BAME workers feel disadvantaged from getting top jobs. She feels as though there is not much help from the government to tackle such issues which leave BAME workers without any support and it allows bosses to continue with discrimination against their BAME workers.

Despite fight to end inequality particularly based on gender and sex, numerous report still indicate widespread inequality in many societies and workplaces. Coulter (2019) contended that economic inequality, power distribution, management decision making, income, or wealth are some of distinguishable dimensions of inequality but the issue encompasses opportunities such as choice open to a group of individual, and inequality rooted to appreciation, and results. Findings by Ponthieux and Meurs (2015) and Ridgeway (2011) on gender inequality indicated that it grow into gender discrimination where women, in most societies, were not allowed to engage or get involved in some activities ranging from religious functions, leaderships, military, and importantly owing tools of production, inheriting, or education rather perceived as man’s roles and duties. Sexism is another form of inequality which exists between genders, UNICEF defines sexism as “prejudice or discrimination based on one’s gender”. (Apostolides, 2020) presents that many women claim to have experienced sexism or harassment due to their gender. She also states that many women fail to reach top roles at their workplace due to their gender and although this statistic is gradually improving, it is still not balanced. Gender bias is usually a factor that can cause women to be disadvantaged due to their gender (Diehl et al., 2020) investigate what bias actually is. They state that gender Bias ‘manifests in a multiplicity of forms, ranging from subtle to overt’, (Diehl et al., 2020). That being said ‘Gender bias is the tendency to prefer one gender over another’(Reiners, 2021). As (Elsesser and Lever, 2011) present that female leaders are thought of as being less competent than their male counterparts by their bosses and this is an example of gender bias at workplaces.

Inequality towards women across male dominated industries

Lakritz (2020) presents that many industries are still male dominated. These include Aviation, Construction, Architecture, and even when it comes to being Clergy. (Parker, 2018) indicates that ,many women struggle to access senior roles in male dominated industries due to be seen as having a lack of the qualities possessed by leaders. Moreover, (Wright, 2015) found that many woman in male dominated industries have very little contact with females working at their workplace due to the male dominance of their work sector. She further adds that this can lead women to either seek support from other women in the occupation or see them as competition due to their personal need of proving themselves worthy and gaining recognition for their work. In addition, Rubin et al. (2019) stated that women face sexism in different ways in male dominated industries. It can range from receiving unwelcome sexual advances and comments to the workplaces having policies affecting men and women differently. This treatment of women often affects their mental health and job satisfaction and can lead them without a sense of belonging.

Powell and Sang (2015) explore the engineering and construction industry that are two of the most male dominated industries in the United Kingdom. They found that women in those industries were looked down on to their lower physical strength in comparison and their care responsibilities towards their young children. These particularly affected women on maternity leave and one women even claimed to be called a “liability” due to being pregnant. (Heise et al., 2019) support this; they indicated that women are often seen as vulnerable and in need of protection from a very young age which makes them seem weak especially in male dominated industries. Men in male majority sectors often see women as being less able to do the same tasks as men and this can be a way of showing their own masculinity and superiority.

Ellenberger et al (2018) provide an insight into the medical industry where 50% of American and European medical graduates are women. This may sound like a step in the right direction however despite this figure, there is still gender discrimination in the industry. Ellenberger et al. (2018) state that “only 1/3rd of the practising physicians are woman”. This serves to be an alarming figure and indicates that women may still be facing issues when it comes to being recruited after graduating. Kelly (2017) highlights that discrimination faced by female graduates during medical recruitment has been a historically longstanding issue. She presents the case of Elizabeth Garret who was one of the first women to be placed on the British Medical Register but was limited by own father who was disgusted by her wish to become a doctor. She adds further that in the 19th century, there were “specific arguments put against women” due to the Victorian belief that women were not made to handle the pressure of becoming a doctor and that only men possessed such qualities. Glauser (2018) further supports that women are indeed subject to discrimination in the medical profession by adding that these differences in treatment has been given rise by the “unconscious biases against women” and suggests that female leaders in medicine are still a minority.

On the other hand, whilst it may be argued that women face sexism in many forms at their workplace and in many medical roles, there are industries such as nursing where males are not encouraged as much as women (Gardenier, et al 2016). A study by Kimberly et al. (2014) show that more people hold negative attitudes towards men in the nursing industry and many women prefer female nurses especially when it comes to being touched. They further add that even nursing textbooks ignore the inclusion of men and use feminine pronouns and that this is given a rise by the cultural belief of women being more caring and therefore suiting such roles more. Mallo (2016) speaks how he was brought into a clinic where he was the only male nurse in an attempt to diversify the staff. This highlights a shortage of men in the care industry and also showcases the efforts of bosses to reduce the gender imbalance found in the industry. There are many advantages of balanced workforces. The findings by Petty (2016) highlights that balanced workforces allow for better development of the business as there is a wider range of skill sets available. The article also depicted that balanced workforces allow a better customer reach as it allows more customers to feel drawn to the business due to staff that they can relate to. A study conducted by Kalev and Deutsch (2018), found that in contemporary workplace has increasing pivot on reshaping and restructuring gender inequalities by working towards integrating more women, increased participation in workplace decision making process, and offering more opportunities through programs design to have inclusivity and eliminating occupational gender inequality. However, according to the empirical findings, the injustice in the workplace based on gender in rooted on cultural, relational, and structural composition of a given organisation and an industry. Similarly, Kiser (2015) held the argument that inequality in workplaces is instituted in organisational structures and strengthen by hierarchical privileges, biasness, and subordination.

The argument remains that despite widespread awareness and formulation of policies and enacted laws advancing gender equality and non-discrimination in offering opportunities, implementation of the same particularly in some industry remain a mirage. According to Scarborough et al. (2019), in addition to law requiring inclusion and equality representation of women in all levels of an organisation and industries, initiatives for Women and Girls in Science, leadership, and engineering, gender disparities in these fields remain huge. Examining the attitudinal difference between men and women on workplace and working issues, Kiser (2015) found significant differences between males and female in the workplace when male were likely to given and retrained when jobs are scarce. The findings further indicated that men have more rights in workplace than women and reflected in pay, remuneration, and income.

Ragbir et al, (2021) presents that many forms of discrimination exist in Aviation. In a study, they found that white, male pilots were preferred most whilst female, coloured pilots were favoured the least in most cases. They add that people of colour and females are underrepresented in the industry and face criticism from both consumers and recruiters. Furthermore, (Evans and Feagin, 2012) found that racism against people of ethnic minorities was an issue in aviation back in 2012 and it is disappointing to see that it still exists 9 years later. They found that social status also made a difference and those of lower class were less desirable when it came to recruitment.

Cabin crew also face sexual harassment from their colleagues and passengers. (Węziak-Białowolska, et al, 2020) found this to be especially true for female flight attendants despite the fact that the risk of sexual harassment can apply to both genders. In addition, they also found that female flight attendants have often been humiliated based on weight and pregnancy whilst male flight attendants have often faced “discrimination related to actual or perceived sexual orientation”. They stated that despite this unfair treatment, many flight attendants do not perceive these to be or report these as sexual harassment.

Moreover, (Simons and Maire, 2020) have identified that age has also been a barrier for many seeking to enter the aviation industry and this can often lead people over the age of 60 feeling discriminated against since they are unable to fly alone even if they are completely healthy. Many stakeholders in the industry have tried to extend the age limit for commercial pilots for those who it is safe to do so to allow elder, healthy pilots to fly commercially.

The Inequality towards female pilots in Aviation

Ferla and Graham (2019) highlighted that there is a shortage of women in aviation and they believe that this is a consequence of women historically not being allowed to access such opportunities and due to companies preferring men to women. The findings by Ragbir et al. (2021) points to systemic establishment structured to lock out some group of people that include minorities and women in larger aviation industry and as a pilot. In investigating the trends in the aviation industry, Sobieralski and Hubbard (2019) argued that although more are entering and advancing as a career the industry although slowly, many women still holds a beliefs that they can ever be pilots because they were women. Opengart and Germain (2018) support these findings as it states that ‘women only account for 6%’ of the pilots in the US and suggests that reducing gender-related roadblocks for female pilots would help increase diversity in the industry. It aims to show that eliminating issues such as ‘tacit and subtle discrimination’ would encourage more women to be attracted to non-traditional roles.

Furthermore, Thatchatham and Peetawan (2020) highlight that the reason why such issues are existent for women is due to the role of a pilot is generally considered to “require masculine characteristics such as physical and mental strength, great leadership, advanced technical skills and a high degree of responsibility for the flight safety”. This perception, as illustrated by Ferla and Graham (2019), has caused women to be perceived as less favourable for this occupation. However, the findings by Prokopovič (2018) shows that there is no solid proof that confirms that these characteristics vary significantly in men and women and that the difference in physical ability hampers the functionality or safety of the flight. Studies have shown that the difference in muscle strength between men and women has not ‘proven to be a factor in the creation of in-flight problems (Paulsen, 2002; Germain et al., 2012; Douglas, and Pittenger, 2020; Fischer, 2019). To make sure that aspiring pilots are physically suitable for the role of a pilot, the Class 1 Medical Examination has been created. This means that anyone who does not meet the health requirements for a flight to be conducted safely is not allowed to undertake flight training and become a pilot (CAA, 2021). This is due to the reason that physical strength is required at a specific value and anyone is able to become a pilot if they meet the physical requirements of the Class 1 Medical.

Despite all female student pilots meeting or exceeding the minimum physical requirements of the Class 1 Medical, many female students often face discrimination due to their colleagues considering them as too weak to become pilots. Proving this “theory” wrong, (Davey and Davidson, 2000) found that previous “research by the Civil Aviation Authority has shown that female pilots were four times less likely to crash an aircraft than their male counterparts” which just shows that women are in no way incapable of handling an aircraft. They explored the experiences of female pilots in commercial aviation and found that although “harassment, sexism, high visibility and isolation” of female pilots has declined, it still exists and the commercial aviation industry is still predominantly male. Similarly, (Cockburn and Neal-Smith, 2009) found that male colleagues in the Aviation industry often assume things about female pilots and breed unfair stereotypes of women pilots which is a form of “cultural sexism”. Many student pilots also told them that there were only men’s uniforms available which again brings the prejudice into light.

Yanıkoğlu et al. (2020) found that this “cultural racism” often leads to several roadblocks for women including issues such as not getting promotions and bullying which has sexual connotations surrounding it. Mitchell et al, ((2006) had also found out the same almost 14 years earlier however not much has changed since and women are still targets of masculine perceptions which do not necessarily agree with research carried out of flying proficiency which is proven to be higher in females

However, it can be argued that this treatment of women varies from woman to woman. (Chui, 2020) conducted an interview with Pilot Eva Claire Marseille who currently flies a Boeing 747 aircraft. She said she felt included at her flight school and thought her classmates were great. She never faced any sexism and does not feel as though all woman face such discrimination. She found it difficult to give a female perspective on her training as she claims that she received no different treatment than the males in the class.

Chapter 3: Methodology

Research Philosophy

As described by Kumar (2018), methodology is an ideological framework in which a researcher can base addressing the aim and answering the research questions in a logical and systemic manner towards knowledge development. Research methodology follows a set steps and processes which makes sure the objectives and aim are meet satisfactorily. Arguably, for some people a discriminatory practice to a group of people might be fundamentally normal and part of cultural practices of other people, particularly those grounded on traditions and cultural norms (Arrow et al., 2015). Moreover, in most workplaces and industries, cultural practices as well as norms are inherited and passed down either conscious or unconsciously to the next generation and then to those after them. The resultant to this is systemic discrimination and inequality but, as illustrated by Miller (2020), those inside would never see or notice. Moreover, building from the argument held by Nardone (2018), understanding the issues touching on discrimination, victimisation, and inequality calls on delving into the victims’ point of view, experience, and opinion about the subject. Therefore, based on this, this research study took interpretivist paradigm to inform understanding on disparities and likelihood of women being disadvantaged in the aviation industry.

Research methods

Burns and Groove (2014) described research methods as procedural framework in which data is gathered, evaluated, and interpreted before analysed. According to McCusker and Gunaydin (2015), three common research methods are qualitative, quantitative, or a mixed method. In a qualitative purview, research seeks to delve deeper into the opinion, experience, and beliefs of the participants then expressing in non-numerical data (Yates, and Leggett, 2016). In contrast, quantitative approach involves collecting and interpreting the data and findings statistically, hence showing relationship between variables numerically (Bryman, 2017). On the other hand, the mixed method incorporate both the qualitative and quantitative attributes, that is seeking to express the correlation while also understanding the problem deeply. In this research, the focus is exploring the likelihood of women being disadvantaged in the aviation industry. In doing so, number of factors such as discrimination, inequality, cultural norms and practices, sexism culture, and structural framework collectively purposely of unconscious designed to lock some group of people, women, out. Therefore, the experiences and beliefs of those affected directly make core aspect of addressing the aim of this research. As such, the adopted approach is mixed method.

Data collection

In data collection, primary sources informed addressing and answering the research aim and questions. Couper (2017) expresses that numerous data collection methods that include survey, experiments, observations, interviews, and focused groups can be used to gather data from primary sources. Each approach offers numerous advantages. In this research, online survey was used. Advantages of being fast, cheap, convenient, and easy to coordinate while also breaking the barriers of travelling and setting down with potential participants particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. A semi-structured questionnaire was used, with questions designed to capture both the discrimination and inequality in the industry, and also provide avenues of have an insight into beliefs held, experiences went through, and disadvantage felt by women while working and advancing careers in the industry. Before analysing the outcome, the findings would be subjected into evaluation process for validity and reliability of the outcome. Thematic analysis tool that involved drawing patterns and themes is used. Under ethical consideration, all potential participants were informed on the purpose and scope of this research, as well as the use and storage of the data collected. All participants were assured of privacy and confidentiality of the process and outcomes.

Chapter 4: Findings and Results

Chapter Introduction

Using semi-structured questionnaire distributed via online platforms, the potential participants were invested by sending invitation emails, WhatsApp message, and social media invites to participate in the survey. The inclusion criteria involved a participant working or worked in aviation industry and preferably female in the industry. Male were encouraged to participants in attempt to have a holistic view of the issues facing women discrimination and disadvantage from both perspectives. Although this research aimed to survey 100 individuals, 63 completed the survey questions. Notably, this study did not focus specifically on a particular occupation within the aviation industry but rather women working in the larger aviation industry.

Participants demographics1 Participants demographics2 Participants demographics3

From Table 4.1 above, female comprised 79% of the participants while 3% (2 individuals) indicating ‘rather not say’ their gender. The age group ranged between 18 and above 60 years, however majority of the participants were between 25 and 34 years followed by 18 to 24 years group. The importance of a distributed age group is having a generational perspective of the issues regarding to discrimination and inequality from cultural, norms, and traditions of within an industry, and by extension society. The older generation provides a perceptive of inherited systemic inequality and discrimination within the aviation frameworks and culture while younger generation particularly those below 40 years offer an insight on ways they experience, fell, and belief prevalence of discrimination and inequality in the industry. On educational level, all participants had post-secondary education level with majority (46%) holding a college certificate then followed by 34.9% holding a university degree. Twelve participants said they have postgraduate degree. In terms of employment status, 88% of the participants said they were formally employed in the industry while four saying either contractor or entrepreneur whereas 3 were either unemployed or retired.

Participants demographics4

From table 4.2, a significant number of respondents (83%) held that there exist discrimination and inequality in workplace. Four individuals held that there was no any form discrimination or inequality in workplace, a similar number saying not sure whether such exist, while three (4.7%) noting they have experienced or seen any form of discrimination. In term of unfairness in the aviation industry, 78% of the participants said employees are subject to unfair treatment and discriminatory acts while 11 (17%) holding that the industry is fair to all employees irrespective of background. As shown by the table 4.2, only three individuals held not sure whether the industry treat some employees in the industry unfairly.

inequality experienced in the industry

On the question of experienced discrimination and inequality in the aviation industry, the participants highlighted number of responses ranging from sexism to being perceived as less competent compared to the men counterpart. As shown in the table 4.3, sexism in the industry ranked highest with 71% of the respondents saying they have either experienced or seen acts that would be considered sexist. This was followed by not being involved in decision-making process because of their gender (71%) while 62% of the respondents saying being overlooked on leadership and management roles because they were women. Similarly, being given negative appraisal (55%), not having career development (50%), being perceived less competent (49%), and being passed for men on some tasks and jobs (42%) were also highlighted as some of the discrimination felt. Notably, only two participants skipped the questions. From the findings, it is evidence that discrimination is widespread in the industry. The participant noted facing more than one issues considered discriminatory.

culture in the industry influence culture in the industry influence1

The survey further asked whether the establishment in term of culture, traditions, and norms have an impact on seen discrimination and inequality in the aviation industry. The responses show that majority (68% of the respondents) felt that systemic establishment is the cause of the observed discrimination while 9 participants (14%) saying no, while seven indicating being not sure the relation and four saying they did not know. The findings indicate a correlation between cultural setting and established traditions on the inequality and discrimination in workplace. From the literature, the practices of discrimination in workplace and institution is embody in their core structural composition morphing to becoming part of the culture and practices. As argued by Craig (2007) and Ozeren (2014), in some aspect, discriminatory practices has been normalised to the extent that those who are not affected directly do not notice or see it.

On the other hand, according to participants’ raising any concern perceived as discriminatory or sexist receive a mixed reaction from the management. The question that had asked whether discriminatory or sexist concern raised by women would receive any adequate attention had 35% of the respondents saying yes while majority (58%) saying no it will not. Arguably, this demonstrated the extent to which the issues have roots in the industry to the point where the discriminatory or sexist practices are normalised.

Participants’ response on inequality practice faced by women Participants’ response on inequality practice faced by women1

On payment parity, 73% of the participants held that there is a difference in income between women and men with same job description and tasks while 26% believed that there is equity in pay among individuals in the same job grounds. Based on this findings, the discrimination in pay based on one’s gender is huge and highlights established sexism in the aviation industry. The survey further asked the question of career development seeking to determine whether both men and women were afford same growth opportunities and conditions. The findings as show in table 4.5, indicate majority (66% of the participants) saying no, while 31% believing that career development avenues are available equality to all employees irrespective of one’s background (gender). Similarly, based on the findings, one can argue existence of a significant correlation between gender and career development opportunities where women feel limited by established structure to develop and advance a career in the aviation industry. Similar outcome is observed on the question of women being disadvantaged in the industry. According to the findings, 68% of the respondents said women are disadvantaged in growing their careers in the industry while 25% saying no, both have equal playing field. Clearly, from the responses, majority of the participants beliefs that their career is being derailed by the sexism and discrimination in the industry where they have limited compared to their male counterpart.

working environment 1 working environment 2

As shown by Table 4.6, major changes that participants believed is needed in the aviation industry to advance equality was having more opportunities for women (84%), then followed by raising awareness on discrimination and sexism in the industry (76%). Other changes such as encouraging more women to enter to industry (66%), and overhauling the structural aspects of the industry (63%) aimed to eradicating systemic discrimination and inequality, as well as inducing new practices were raised (60%), and restructuring leadership and management framework (50%). Some of the participants held that instituting affirmative action (42%) where the industry will be require having a stipulated men-women ratio across the industry would ensure eliminate discrimination and inequality (Figure 4.1).

Countering Inequality in Aviation industry

Dutta et al. (2011) wrote about how “the professional development of an underrepresented faculty can be enhanced by mentorship” which means that the inequalities in aviation could be reduced using mentorship programs which encourage more women into the industry. She further added how it has proven to lead to both psychological benefits for women seeking to enter the industry and in allowing more women to reach top positions. Cline (2018) has discovered that mentoring has a positive effect in increasing the number of women in Aviation. Mentoring schemes have been founds to increase equal pay and treatment at workplaces leading to higher job satisfaction.

Many airlines such as EasyJet have launched incentives such as the Amy Johnson Initiative (EasyJet, 2015). This program was introduced so that EasyJet could double the number of female pilots in the aviation industry in 2015 from 6% to 12% (Details of easyJet Amy Johnson Flying Initiative announced, with CTC Aviation to support - Pilot Career News, 2016). The aim was to further increase this percentage to 20% female entrant pilots by 2020 as stated on their website. There are also other companies such as Airways Aviation who have provided special training offers and scholarships to make it easier for women to become pilots by diminishing one of the main concerns of the training, the fees (Airways Aviation champions female pilots (Airways Aviation, 2018. However, some companies such as the honourable company of air pilots have confirmed that they will not be providing scholarships during the Coronavirus pandemic (Cundy, 2020).

Encouraging girls by showing them that they are capable enough to become good pilots and equipping them with the skills needed for a good pilot can be a solution for the gender difference in the Aviation industry. As part of the many initiatives that have been launched to help mitigate the gender imbalance in the industry, the idea of creating an online mentoring platform for women wishing to go into leadership roles in the Aviation industry was promoted by (Durbin, Lopes, and Warren, 2020). This platform would be designed to empower women and allow them to step into higher roles in the Aviation industry more easily and comfortably. It will give the chance for all women to be mentored rather than just the highest achieving women so that everyone is supported equally.

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Seligson (2019) has found that there is a large deficit of women in the aviation industry and the author’s aim for this project is to combine their existing research with more research to further evaluate these issues and suggest a plan that could help to tackle the problem. Moreover, the Women in Aviation and Aerospace charter further supports these studies; Their charter is aimed at working on more gender equality in the industry. It combines many different organisations and includes trade unions to ensure that the rights of women in aviation are upheld. The charter aims to ‘support the progression of women into senior roles in aviation’. This shows that there is a noticeable deficit of women in senior roles and such charters endeavour to encourage women to advance in the industry.


Discrimination and inequality in workplace is not a new phenomenon nut rather something morphing from the inequality and sexism in the social spheres and being transferred into workplace. Inequality awareness have dominated main stream where a call of ensuring workplace offer equitable playing field of employees irrespective of gender, race, religion, or background. However, reports still indicate widespread gender discrimination in most industry particularly in technology, engineering, aviation, and military where women are perceived less competent, knowledge, or lack zeal to be successful in the fields. In this exploring the discrimination in the aviation industry that have disadvantage women towards career development and growth, the findings indicate widespread discrimination and inequality. According to the participants, a significant number of women experience discrimination such as in recognition, pay, decision making, leadership, and promotion. Compared to their men counterparts, women experience sexism and discriminatory practices limiting their growth. From the findings, participants hold that number of practices need to be introduced in attempt of ensuring the playing ground is level for both women and men, and one group being disadvantaged based on their gender. According to the participants, levelling the playing field, that is, ensuring men and women have equitable opportunities to jobs and career develop then reflected in recognition, appreciation, and remuneration require introducing and implementing number of practices that include offering more opportunities to women, encouraging more participation, formulating inclusivity structures, and working towards eradicating sexist and discriminatory practices in the industry.


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