According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, India has the highest proportion of female pilots in the world, accounting for around 12.4% of all pilots, compared to 5.5% in the United States, the world’s largest aviation market, and 4.7% in the United Kingdom.
Nivedita Bhasin became the world’s youngest commercial airline captain in 1989, but the Indian pilot recalls how other crew members would urge her into the cockpit so passengers wouldn’t feel awkward seeing a woman driving their plane. However, three decades after Bhasin’s career began, Indian female pilots are no longer a novelty, making the country a success story in terms of diversity in the airline industry.
Pioneers like Bhasin argue that a variety of factors, including outreach programs, improved corporate practices, and strong family support, are driving Indian women. Many Indian women were drawn to aviation by the National Cadet Corps’ air wing, which was established in 1948 and teaches students to fly microlight aircraft. Some state governments give financial assistance for the costly commercial pilot training, and organizations such as Honda Motor Co. offer full scholarships for an 18-month program at an Indian flying school and support their employees to make it more accessible for women.
“India has started decades ago recruiting women into STEM positions, including pilots,” Bloomberg quoted Michele Halleran, a professor and director of diversity initiatives at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, as saying. “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.”
In the 1990s, the Indian Air Force began recruiting female pilots for helicopters and transport planes. Initially, they weren’t permitted to take on combatant responsibilities.
Many female pilots in India have a more mundane reason for their success: family support. According to pilots, India’s family system, in which extended families frequently live together and grandparents and uncles frequently assist raise children or running houses, is especially beneficial in an industry that requires long hours and frequent trips away from home.
Gender Differences in General Aviation Crashes, research that examined aircraft and helicopter crash data between 1983 and 1997, discovered that male pilots had higher crash rates than female pilots. According to Women in Combat Arms: A Study of the Global War on Terror, which examined the accident rates of male and female pilots from 2002 to 2013, women fly aircraft “more safely,” accounting for just 3% of mishaps but accounting for 10% of all US army helicopter pilots.
Kunjal Bhatt, a head flying commander at India’s Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi, said she finds female trainees to be especially “meticulous” and dedicated to success since the stakes are higher for those who return.
Harpreet A De Singh, the first woman to lead an Indian airline when she took over Alliance Air Aviation Ltd. in 2020, undertakes school outreach activities to create awareness about occupations such as pilots, technicians, and air traffic controllers.
A country that ranked 135th out of 146 on the World Economic Forum’s list of nations for gender parity was able to defy the trend in this field. Some of the ideas might be utilized as examples by other nations and sectors looking to improve women’s representation. In general, diverse organizations outperform, and some studies even imply that female pilots have fewer safety difficulties. Furthermore, hiring more women may assist airlines in dealing with labor shortages that are causing flight delays when the globe has recovered from the Covid outbreak and demand grows.