Airlines should hire women pilots: Boeing

Captain Deborah Lawrie became a commercial pilot in 1979.
Captain Deborah Lawrie became a commercial pilot in 1979.


Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region should increase their focus on training and hiring female pilots as they look to fill an expected 226,000 new flight deck roles over the next 20 years, says Boeing Flight Services vice president Sherry Carbary.

“When we are looking for a demographic that can help fill the pipeline for future pilots and technicians, I think we should think a lot more about women and what they can bring,” she said. “Women are a vibrant resource to go after.”

Of the 226,000 new pilot roles projected in the 2015 Boeing Pilot & Technician Outlook, only 5 per cent are in the Oceania region, including Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, while nearly half will be in China.

Even developed countries have struggled to attract significant numbers of female pilots – Carbary said only 6 per cent of commercial pilots in the United States are female.

In Australia, where Deborah Lawrie became the first female commercial pilot in 1979, the percentage is similar. But there are promising signs of more women rising through the ranks in the future, albeit still at very low levels compared with their male colleagues.

Only 4.5 per cent of Qantas pilots are female, but in its regional arm, QantasLink, 11 per cent are female, up from 9 per cent just 18 months ago. Jetstar last year appointed Captain Georgina Sutton, a former Qantas pilot, as its chief pilot, making her one of the first women in the world to achieve that role. And this month, the first-ever all-female flight crew operated an ATR72 at Fiji Airways regional arm Fiji Link.

Carbary said there had been promising strides in attracting more female pilots at Middle Eastern carriers, but other parts of Asia were lagging behind.

“It is going to take time,” she said. “We need to continue to be out there and promote the jobs that are available for women in aviation.”

Carbary said much of the growth in Asia would come from low-cost carriers on short-haul flights. She said some of those piloting roles might be more appealing to women with children.

“In some cases women are raising a family and not able to travel as much,” she said. “But I think women could fill a huge role in being short-haul pilots around the world.”

Boeing sponsors a few scholarships each year for women pilots to gain a 737 rating  so they are more employable.

Tamara Bell, the director of national and international programs at industry group Aviation/Aerospace Australia, said work was being done on trying to boost the number of women in the industry. The Royal Australian Air Force now holds a flight camp for high school-aged girls, and Aviation/Aerospace holds an annual summit on women in aviation to raise awareness of gender diversity.

 – Sydney Morning Herald