How does India have twice as many women airline pilots as the US?
Nivedita Bhasin became the world’s youngest commercial airline captain in 1989, but the Indian pilot still recalls her early years when other crew would urge her to rush into the cockpit so passengers wouldn’t get nervous at the sight of a woman flying their plane.
Three decades after Bhasin’s career began, female pilots are no longer a rarity in India, making the country a success story when it comes to diversity in the airline industry. India has the highest percentage of female pilots globally, the International Society of Women Airline Pilots estimates, with about 12.4% of all pilots women, compared with 5.5% in the US, the world’s largest aviation market, and 4.7% in the UK.
The statistics raise questions about how a nation — which placed 135th among 146 countries on the World Economic Forum’s ranking of nations based on gender parity — was able to reverse the trend in this particular industry. Some of the answers may offer lessons for other countries and sectors striving to get more women into their ranks. Businesses that are more diverse tend to perform better, and some studies have even shown that female pilots have fewer safety incidents. Hiring more women could also help airlines address the staff shortages that are disrupting travel as the world emerges from the Covid pandemic and demand rebounds.
Trailblazers like Bhasin say Indian women are being encouraged by a string of factors from outreach programs to improved corporate policies and strong family support. Many Indian women were drawn to flying through an air wing of the National Cadet Corps, formed in 1948, a kind of youth program where students are trained to operate microlight aircraft. To make the expensive commercial pilot training more accessible to women, some state governments are subsidizing it and companies such as Honda Motor Co. give full scholarships for an 18-month course at an Indian flying school and help them get jobs.
“India has started decades ago recruiting women into STEM positions, including pilots,” said Michele Halleran, a professor and director of diversity initiatives at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. “In the U.S., we have only started the demand for a diversity movement in aviation because of our current drastic pilot and technician shortage.”
The Indian Air Force began recruiting women pilots for helicopters and transport aircraft back in the 1990s. It wasn’t until this year that they were allowed to take up fighter roles.
Read More at www.aljazeera.com/amp/economy/2022/8/9/how-does-india-have-twice-as-many-women-airline-pilots-than-us