Women are Key to Aviation’s Future

By Scott Spangler on March 6th, 2012

Did you know that March is Women’s History Month, and that Women of Aviation Worldwide Week started March 5?  I didn’t, until a friend shared  an e-mail from Penny Hamilton, a pilot with a Ph.D. who’s invested a lot of time studying just about every aspect of Teaching Women to Fly.

If you don’t remember her work, take another look at my post from January 2, 2011,  Women & Aviation: Still No Real Change. Things, as most will agree, have not gotten any better since then. (And beyond aviation, of late they have taken another turn for the worse.)

But she and others haven’t quit. In Denver on March 1 Dr. Penny and her research partner, Dr. Marie-Line Germain of Western Carolina University, presented their full research and theory paper at the 2012 Academy of Human Resource Development International Research Conference in the Americas.

Their paper, “Women Employed in Male-Dominated Industries: Lessons Learned from Female Aircraft Pilots, Pilots-in-training and Mixed-gender Flight Instructors,” focuses on problems of exclusion, male-dominated industries, and rethinking human resources development.

During this week, Women of Aviation offers a plethora of activities and contests designed to get females of all ages involved. More important to me is that it welcomes the participation of anyone who believes that aviation would be better off with more women involved, and each one of us can make a difference.

I’ll take that one step further. For the most part, we men haven’t done a very good job of nurturing the pilot population (or the nation). Maybe now is the time to step aside and give women a chance. They certainly can’t do any worse than we have. –Scott Spangler


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14 Responses to “Women are Key to Aviation’s Future”

  1. Women are Key to Aviations Future – Jetwhine – Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion « Aero Digital Life Says:

    […] Women are Key to Aviations Future – Jetwhine – Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion March 6, 2012 via jetwhine.com […]

  2. David Says:

    I am a little confused by what exactly you are trying to say here, but I think I agree with the premise. I don’t know that women are the KEY to aviation’s future, but they certainly need to be an integral part of it.

    I went back and read the post you referenced as well as the top ten list, and that just came across as a bunch of excuses of why not to fly, not real barriers.

    Sure it is expensive, and much harder for some people than others, but that has nothing to do with gender. In fact I would guess that there are more scholarships for women than men, just like with many other scholarships. Might be something interesting to research.

    I am currently in an Air Force flying training unit, and it can be very demanding at times. There are men and women that struggle, and men and women that succeed, it has nothing to do with sex as much as how committed you are to the program. Those who put in the time and effort succeed, and those that just try to squeak by struggle.

    I’m not naive enough to think it isn’t tough to try and work in a male dominated career, but aviation is by no means the only one. It would be just as hard to be a male in a female dominated career.

    Like I said, I think women need to be an integral part of the future of aviation as they are every bit as capable as men, but I don’t think there needs to be a special program just to bring them in. Aviation is something that you have to be passionate about because even with all the awesome experiences there is still a ton of crap you have to deal with, and if you aren’t passionate about it, you will never make it, male or female. Maybe women just aren’t as passionate about it, for whatever reason.

  3. Mark Jones Jr Says:

    I don’t think women are the KEY to the future of aviation either. We have more pressing problems:

    –Airline industry is unprofitable (it’s going become the next federal bailout/economic crisis)

    –Flight schools that don’t care about training and teaching (or learning how to run a business)–they only care that they (the CFIs) get to fly

    –Debt: Cessna and Hawker Beech need to learn how to invest in themselves instead of going into debt to create products that are not innovative, don’t perform, are behind schedule, etc.

  4. David Says:


    Those are definitely major issues for the industry. The airline industry being unprofitable doesn’t bother me as much since the old saying goes that if you want to make a small fortune in aviation start with a large fortune and it will become small. It is a point of concern, but it always has been to some extent.

    The flight school issue is a big one though. The CFI’s that I knew really didn’t care about their students at all, it was just a stepping stone to what they thought was coming next.

    I have often wondered why Cessna continues to develop so many different new airframes when they do little to improve some of the older stuff. Maybe the best example is the 172 that has been essentially the same for a very long time. At some point the success of other companies will force them to make better choices, or they will fail.

  5. @williamAirways Says:

    The key to aviation’s future is to get as many *PEOPLE* involved with it as possible, regardless of gender.

    “…we men havent done a very good job of nurturing the pilot population (or the nation).”

    I’m not sure what this statement means. How have we men failed to nurture the pilot population?

  6. Matt Says:

    Step aside and give women a chance? You’ve got to be kidding. I for one would hope that nobody would step aside from something that they have strived to achieve… man or woman. Why is there such an effort to bring women or men into an industry in which they don’t currently have equal representation? Shouldn’t the most qualified, most highly skilled pilots available get the position that they are seeking? Instead we impose some arbitrary standard for females or minorities that only implies that they are incapable of being hired without changing the playing field.

  7. Anna Lopez Says:

    maybe not a key to aviation but definitely a big part of it, women have contributed a lot to the industry and have benefited with it too.

    -LowkeyMedia Marketing Team

  8. MInnetta Gardinier Says:

    Last time I looked, women were 50+% of the population and only 6% of the pilot population. It’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t take a PhD to figure out that this industry has a severe gender imbalance that’s not simply due to inability and/or disinterest. The gender bias in the aviation industry is blatant and pervasive. Look at the images in any aviation publication, catalog, etc. Nine times out of ten, when I step out of the left seat of my plane at an airport with a male passenger stepping out on the right side, the line guy or counter folks still just assume the guy’s the pilot. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of great folks in aviation for sure, but the industry needs to move ahead with other industries across the country. You can argue the word KEY, but moving that 6% number to something more equitable to the number of men flying, and there’s no arguing that would MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

  9. Larry Says:

    Step aside and let the ladies “nurture” the pilot population? Scott, is this a joke?

    With about 6.5 percent of the pilot population being female, it’s fair to say that women aviators are doing a rather poor job of increasing their own count, let alone that of the guys. I as much as anyone lament the gender gap among pilots. But as was already stated by other posters, flying is something we must WANT to do with a passion from within ourselves. Women with the desire to fly are doing so, there are just not that many who care for it.

    Let’s not forget the substantial number of former and potential male pilots who abandoned flying altogether because their wives/girlfriends actively discouraged them from doing so. Reasons ranged from fear of seeing a loved one become hurt or killed in a crash, to the “You need to spend more time with me” complaint. I wouldn’t exactly classify such behavior as nurturing the pilot population. I am proud to say I got started in aviation when, after hearing me talk of wanting to fly, my lady bought me a certificate for an introductory pilot lesson. Unfortunately, not all pilots receive that level of support from their life partners.

    But the biggest complaint I hear among pilots and those considering going down that path is the crushing expense of engaging in this activity. The costs are not as much of a problem if you fly for a living. For someone just starting out who wants to obtain his or her Private Pilot certificate, sticker shock is very often the primary deterrent. The number of active pilots will continue to decline as long as the costs of living and flying continue to rise while income levels decline or remain stagnant, which has been an ongoing trend for the last decade or so. Perhaps the increasing number of scholarship opportunities afforded to women may pique their interest somewhat, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that will be the “Key to Aviation’s future”. Flying for enjoyment or other personal reasons is gradually becoming a pasttime of the well-heeled, and I am at a loss to offer a solution that could reverse the trend in our current economy.

  10. Lexie Says:

    You know, I am a female student pilot, and from my limited experience, (good and not so great) it seems that the pilot population is gender-based the way it is because of the choices individuals make. If a man or woman chooses to help an aspiring pilot, that makes a difference. Also, if women were so “cut out” to be pilots, than they should come to the industry by themselves, without being pumped all this propaganda that “women are so great…. we can do anything a man can ….. it is not hard to fly…. we need to rescue general aviation…. we have to promote ourselves” and so on. I for one, get sick of all this stuff about needing more women in aviation. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but from my perspective, I think genuine female pilots are pilots BECAUSE THEY LOVE AVIATION! Not because they were horn-swaggled into coming to the airport by a feminist. Since we are only 6% of the pilot population, it seems that we are a slightly different breed of women. Most women would freak out if they saw a propeller up close and personal. They also would freak out just seeing a basic cockpit. If you even mentioned them taking the controls, most girls I know would pass out or hyperventilate. My point is that the majority of females are not drawn to aviation like men, because they are wired differently mentally. I say, work with the pilot population we have and if a girl or boy truly wants to do what it takes to become a pilot, than help them! Don’t mess with the gender issue. It is that way because the majority of people drawn to aviation are men. Not a problem. I am honored to be part of the rare 6% and there is nothing wrong with it to me.

  11. Mireille Says:

    Women are the key to aviation simply because they constitute half of the population and that segment of the market has never been targeted. Anyone in the aviation industry that argues against targeted that segment of the population might ask GM or Toyota how adding a second car to each household has hurt their business.

    Why more women? Why not? I thought we needed more pilots. Did we mean only more male pilots? Sometimes the hypocrisy is really shocking.

  12. Dave Says:

    Utility, practicality and personal fulfillment are the key to aviation’s future. The size of a gender group has very little to do with whether a person has what it takes to pursue this challenging activity. Having a second car in a household to accomplish daily tasks is an absurd comparison. Sometimes the ignorance is really shocking.

    No one or no thing is preventing the 6% of the pilot population from becoming 10 or 20% women other than the individual women and the choices they make. This is so not a factor in my enjoyment of flying and everyone I know that it appears pathetic and strange when this comes up periodically and the fist-pumps of indignation are seen for a few moments.

    Aviation is better off by attitudes and passion, not gender. A woman can be equally obtuse as a man in preventing aviation to grow, they have no added qualities of success that any man might have, and to suggest otherwise is narrowminded and wrong.

  13. GUEST POST: Blogging for Benet: A Few Ideas From FL290 « Aviation Queen Says:

    […] with the recent Women In Aviation convention and my pal Scott Spangler just penned something at Jetwhine about how women might well represent the future in aviation — it seems a fitting time to […]

  14. @williamAirways Says:

    U.S. Female Pilot Population

    Student 14,683 13,913 +770
    Private 12,927 12,911 +16
    Commercial 7,956 7,137 +819
    ATP 6,350 6,217 +133

    Total Pilot Population year-over-year: -10,460

    Source: GAMA Data Book 2011

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