Arab women striving to become part of the aviation industry

 As commercial aviation witnesses a boom across the world, more and more women are passionately striving to become a part of the industry.

Women in airspace have transitioned from being employed as flight attendants to premier cockpit controllers. Today, a fifth of students enrolling for a commercial flying license in India, the world’s second-most populous country, are women, which is way higher than other countries.

 Compared with other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the UAE has more women pilots, captains, aircraft engineers, mechanics, aircraft maintenance and air traffic controllers, among others.

 Emirates Airlines and Group currently employs nearly 27,000 women, making up 42 percent of the group’s workforce, including women pilots who includes the youngest Emirati female pilot operating the world’s biggest aircraft, A380. Over 60 of more than 4000 pilots employed by it are females.

 More than a third of the 3,770 employees at flydubai, Middle East’s fastest-growing LCC, are female with more than 1,000 female Cabin Crew members and more than 30 female Captains and First Officers. Etihad Airways currently employs over 2,850 Emirati women, including 50 female pilots and also the first Emirati woman registered as a specialist in aviation medicine.  Air Arabia’s women employees include the first female Emirati holder of a multi-crew pilots (MPL) license.

 The 4th Women in Aviation (WIA) Middle East General Assembly will be held in Dubai on 1 May alongside the 19th edition of Airport Show. The event will focus on the growing contribution of women in aviation globally and share best practices from around the world for over 400 attendees expected at the Dubai event.

 Key sessions will focus on initiatives that can help women succeed in the aviation workplace and help organizations meet ICAO’s gender parity goals, the influence of social media in the changing workplace and work-life balance issues with respect to female employment, as well as a systematic guide on how to enhance gender equality in the aviation workplace. The conference will also look at the role women are playing in the development of the region’s ambitious space programs, especially in the United Arab Emirates.

 Mervat Sultan, one of the first Arab women to obtain a flight dispatcher’s license and a Co-Founder and President of the Middle East chapter of Women in Aviation (WIA) International, said, “Just over five percent of the commercial pilots flying worldwide are females. The Middle East’s share has not been encouraging, but things are changing. Being a woman in the aviation industry shouldn’t be about gender, but only about hard work and ability.  The barriers are disappearing as women have been successfully destroying the stereotypes.”

 “Today, we can see an increasing number of women in aviation and aerospace, but still they are vastly under-represented. The opportunities are greater now than the past.  Without any doubts, women in the coming time would be scripting a different success story altogether. It’s somewhat a slow and steady process. Debates will help us in taking crucial decisions towards this end,” said Merwat who will also be addressing the WIA General Assembly.

 Women account for 12.4 percent of India’s pilots, with 1,092 of the total 8,797 pilots in schedule domestic airlines being women.  India has among the highest ratio of female pilots working for schedule airlines globally. Though the number might seem small, it is significantly higher than the global average of 5.4 percent and surpasses the countries like France, Japan and the US at 7.6, 5.6 and 5.1 percent, respectively.

 Estimates from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots show there are 7,409 women pilots across the world accounting for 5.2 per cent of total pilot workforce. Women make up about five per cent of the 53,000 members of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the world’s largest pilot union. It estimates that between three and six per cent of pilots at the world’s largest commercial airlines are women. Representation of women on the ICAO Council is seven out of 36 members. The organisation is committed to a 50-50-gender parity by 2030. According data by the ICAO, only 5.18 percent of pilots are female.