The pilot shortage can be the right catalyst to increase the number of women on the flight deck

As the global aviation sector’s recovery really looks to be hitting its stride, an historic problem, the lack of pilots, has begun rearing its head and has put the industry in serious jeopardy of losing momentum it has so carefully built up after the pandemic.

According to industry estimates, there is a need for 645,000 pilots by 2038. A recent Boeing report highlighted the industry’s need to “keep a sharp focus and engage in collective efforts” to bolster its pilot population and its CEO has been quoted as saying that building a talent pipeline for the future is vital.

Though the problems presented by a future pilot shortage are grave, it is also an excellent opportunity for the wider aviation sector to reset and rethink how it introduces and engages talent in the cockpit.

The impending lack of pilots might just be a great opportunity for the industry to double down on hiring more women, helping ease pilot shortages and meet diversity and inclusion requirements, the latter being key pillars of successful and progressive businesses.

Currently, women only make up a paltry 5.1 percent of the global commercial pilot population, with almost every region in the world logging paltry numbers of female pilots.

The Americas, Europe, and Australia and New Zealand all have just over 5 percent women pilots while the Asia-Pacific and Middle East markets have even lesser numbers, recording just 1.6 percent and 2.1 percent of female representation in the cockpit respectively.

India and Africa though are the bright spots with the former counting 12.4 percent women in its pilot population while Africa’s close behind with 9.8 percent.

A key reason why India and Africa, both swiftly growing aviation markets, have managed to crack the code when it comes to female pilots is because of identification of the need to provide effective support and engagement systems.

The institution of a goal-based framework can also be an effective tool to help the airline industry induct more female pilots.

Already, European low-cost carrier Easyjet has said that it expects 20 percent of its new pilot recruits to be women while Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier, has made a commitment to raise its female pilot population to 40 percent of the airline’s total pilots over the next six years.

Change is afoot in the Middle East too, with Wizz Air Abu Dhabi recently announcing its intention to boost women pilot numbers through the creation of a dedicated programme.

A recent Oliver Wyman study on the lack of women pilots noted a dearth of female role models as a key factor stunting female recruitment in the cockpit.

While it is important for airlines to promote women, more valuable is for existing women pilots to offer guidance and mentorship to younger recruits, allowing their experience to act as a guiding beacon for new entrants and showcasing the benefits of having a long career in the cockpit.

While airlines do their bit, it is also vital for pilot training institutes to double down on attracting more women to the industry.

We at Alpha Aviation Group have trained over 2500 pilots for several international airlines and attracting female talent has been one of our key focusses. We have often gone straight to universities, shining a light on the experiences and stories of successful women trainees, aiming to pick up on interest in aviation at a young age and offering youngsters a clear pathway into the profession.

This perhaps is the perfect moment for industry leaders to transform the industry by increasing visibility of women, entrusting them with leadership roles, and cultivation of an open and welcoming culture.

This is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the industry to attract the best talent and avert a crisis that might cause serious damage to its long-term future.

Bhanu Choudhrie, founder of Alpha Aviation Group

Originally published at https://www.arabianbusiness.com/

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