View Full Version : RESEARCH! Is flying a male thing?!

8th Sep 2008, 16:25

I have been given an discursive essay to complete as part of my GCSE curriculum and I have decided on a topic and all I need now is
research, opinions etc.

I would be enternally grateful if you could gave me any opinions or thoughts on the matter because now I have all the facts and just want some personal thoughts.

Please if you have any thoughts or arguements for or against this please post back!:ok:

Is aviation a male profession?


8th Sep 2008, 16:32
It bloody well should be..............................:E

8th Sep 2008, 16:53
na ahh :*

8th Sep 2008, 17:01
I agree.:}

8th Sep 2008, 17:06
Interesting topic! There's a whole host of questions to be asked... I imagine you could investigate whether it's rooted cultural, genetic or social reason.

Maybe it's because women have a stigma of being bad drivers (for some:eek:)? Maybe because men love their transport whether it be cars, bikes, planes or trains, resulting in higher volumes of plane drivers? Is it similar to why there are so few women bus drivers, taxi drivers, or train drivers? Possibly flying is seen as 'manual' work, therefore a traditionally male profession?

Suppose the PC answer would be that women and men are equally capable however current figures show it is a male dominated profession.

Best of luck, and post your results please :}

8th Sep 2008, 17:08
Sounds to me as if we're the ones who have been given an discursive essay to complete.


Spend some time with the search function. Google your topic. Go to the library. If you take verbatim what you get here, I doubt it will be received well within a report. Add to that, it is in the research where you learn, not the collection of comments.

Good luck.


8th Sep 2008, 17:13
My half penny worth...............................the girls that I have flown with are GOOD, unlike men who vary between adequate and excellent, you will not find, in my opinion, average females . That seem to self-select out if not good.

This does not apply to Kristina Sheffield - 'she' used to be a man! ............dbee PS

I'm not sure whether the name was Christina

8th Sep 2008, 17:35
I guess the clue is to consider how many aviation pioneers have been male and how many female. First there are those who designed and built their own flying machines and then consider those who undertook 'flights into the unknown' (I'm not going to supply the answers - that's for you to do if you want to claim the work as your own).
Then, as suggested, research the relative numbers of male/female flightdeck crew (I suggest you ignore the cabin element) - approaching the airlines might prompt a response.
How many airline chiefs are of the (full) female persuasion?

8th Sep 2008, 17:36
11 fan,

I have already googled and library'ed until i was blue
in the face but now the essay only contains facts. I think
that by getting personal views from others could help me
incase I missed anything.

Thanks anyway

8th Sep 2008, 17:50
I'd contact the relevant women pilots group.
UK is the British Women pilots group.
Australia is the AWPA.

Worldwide, the 99s.

In my company, I think it's about 2-% of the pilot group is female. (over 1,000 pilots).

Do I think it's a male profession? No. In that you must be male to successfully do it, do I think it's a male dominated profession? Only in that there are plenty more guys to girls. (ie target rich environment). :E

8th Sep 2008, 18:24
If you do some research in the archives of pprune you will find quite a few threads on similar topics which will help you.

Be careful though, some of the opinions will surprise you!

8th Sep 2008, 18:41
If flying was for women the sky would be pink, not blue.Classic! :ok:

8th Sep 2008, 18:47

Please pardon my presumptions. My mistake, and well done you. :ok:

And if you will allow, I'll offer something hopefully of value this time.

In my little part of the world (designing and building the aircraft), Maths and Science were always dominated by males. Frankly, I suspect that it was a culture thing more than anything else, at least in my generation.

That said, as I am now one of the "elders' if you will, it seems that the new generation of talent has shifted and as I walk the hallways of the Big "B", more and more of the younger generation are females. A welcome sight as it has become quite obvious (to me at least) that the aerospace community has recognized that the engineering talent is not necessarily a "male" thing, rather, that anyone -regardless of gender- has meaningful contributions to offer.

One aspect you may consider is equal opportunity employment and the changes that have occurred since new laws were implemented.

Best of luck to you in your studies, and again, pardon my earlier comments.



8th Sep 2008, 19:06
From Aviation Week:

Workforce Study: One Young Engineer’s Story Aviation Week & Space Technology 08/18/2008 , page 78

Carole R. Hedden Phoenix

The "essence" of engineering captivated one young aerospace worker early in life

Printed headline: Captured Early On

Jennifer Wapenski is a 24-year-old aerospace engineer with Boeing, working on the Commercial Airplanes 747 production line. And her story may serve as a helpful case study for aerospace and defense companies seeking to attract young talent.

"If you ask my parents, they knew I was going to be an engineer from the day I was born," laughs Wapenski. "I was [my dad’s] first copilot. He built an airplane in our garage, so I bucked a lot of rivets. I just had a lot of exposure to building things."

Another one of Wapenski’s early influences was her high school biology teacher. "He started me off thinking about how to apply math and science" in the real world, she says. "He encouraged me and provided guidance and mentoring."

She also took full advantage of her experiences at the University of Michigan, exploring all the possibilities available to her in the engineering field. "Engineering is all about making a difference," Wapenski says. "It’s about making life easier or improving some aspect of the world. Everything we use every day was touched by an engineer at some point."

A unique combination of factors led Wapenski to where she is today. She is one of the lucky ones—few students can claim fathers who serve as home-grown mentors or high school teachers that spot and foster the latent talents. Sadly, that is far from the norm. How many teachers and guidance counselors know what is involved in an engineering career, the academic requirements, and how to apply for engineering schools and scholarships? Who in today’s education system can provide that road map? Not many. Professional development for today’s high school teachers tends to focus on No Child Left Behind documentation, not career counseling.

But it’s work that keeps Wapenski passionate about engineering. Her typical day starts with a morning crew meeting. After examining concerns and priorities in a team environment, she goes back to her desk and reviews the issues online. Then she chooses which one to tackle first. "I go out to the airplane and make sure I fully understand what is going on—with the people and the materials." After an analysis period in which she coordinates with "the experts," she writes an instruction guide to fixing the problem.

She says most people think of her job as sitting in a cube with a rigid schedule. But that’s a popular misconception. She is far more likely to be crawling around the inside of an airplane wing. "That’s what I love about my job," she says. "These things are the essence of engineering. Every day I touch a 747—one of the most recognizable aircraft in the world. Millions of people depend on it. That’s an honor."

When mentoring others, Wapenski points out that there are more opportunities than ever in technology. Students should keep their options open "until you know what drives you," she advises. "That means keeping up with math and science throughout high school so you have those options."

8th Sep 2008, 19:10
I don't believe aviation is an intrinsically male thing but there are a multitude of reasons why there are so fewer female pilots (and even fewer in the rotary world!).

There were quite a few female pilots during the Second World War but, as soon as the war was over, they were expected, by society (and the military!) to return to domesticity. This was an age when very few women worked and married ones, hardly ever.

So this could demonstrate both society and social expectation holding women back.

However, it must be accepted that the majority of women are just not interested in flying. They are highly unlikely to be reading these pages. I have a number of female friends who, whilst admiring what I do, cannot for the life of them understand why I want to!

When I told a friend how much it cost per hour to fly, she exclaimed, "Bloody hell, you could buy a pair of Jimmy Choos for that!"; one saying how much my PPL cost and I could have had a 3 month round the world trip for the same. There was a complete lack of empathy in our diverse priorities!

My perception is that much of this, in these times is nature, not nuture. Those women who want to fly, usually do so although some may sacrifice that desire if the desire to have children is greater. I also know of a couple of women who gave up flying when they had children as they did not want to take any unnecessary risks for their sakes.



If flying was for women the sky would be pink, not blue. How original, never heard that one before! :rolleyes: How long before we get the cockpit/box office quip?

8th Sep 2008, 22:45
I also know of a couple of women who gave up flying when they had children as they did not want to take any unnecessary risks for their sakes.

Not exclusive to women that. I not sure I can justify what I do any longer now that children are around. It would be different if I had the airline job. Which in the end will impel me one way or the other. Even the airline job is essentially anti family and anti social.

But they are motivations for after you become a pilot. Is flying a male thing? No, but it certainly looks like it from the outside. I don't think it's any use asking women pilots why they took up flying. For the most part their motivation is probably the same as most men. It would be interesting to find women who considered becoming pilots and rejected the notion. That would be hard to do. If I ask my wife, she simply tells me she wasn't interested. Never considered it. Yet she went for a highly complex, very technical career as a scientist. So the technical aspect would not have put her off.

What I find interesting is that despite all the talk of equality and gender bias. Women simply do not chose certain professions despite the fact that it has never been easier to do so.

The simple and obvious answer is that in general women are not interested in becoming a pilot. Flying is not a male profession. It's simply a profession that more men find interesting than women.

Chippie Chappie
8th Sep 2008, 22:49
It's called the cockpit not the box office for a reason!

(Just kidding. Dumb f*cki*g question to begin with!)


Loose rivets
8th Sep 2008, 23:13
It's certainly not a dumb question.

I flew with Yvonne Pope as she was then, on the first few of her flights. The press were there to meet us as we made our way round the newspaper run. They asked an intelligent question. Yes, one question. Will you be wearing skirt or trousers?

Portended that did.

Two things happed that are germane to the question. 1/ A skipper resigned in protest. 2/ She went on to be an experienced skipper on jet transport.

I'm sure that not all women would make good pilots. Their monthly cycles can be insignificant, but they can also be a terrible burden. No amount of commitment would suppress a bad sufferer's days of misery. So, the physiological issues have to be taken into the equation. The associated psychological phases are legendary, and while they might prompt much humor, some of the swings of emotion are not even a little bit funny. To take on this job for the long term, a female would have to know just how much they were going to be affected. Hard to plan ahead when one needs to start training at a youngish age.

8th Sep 2008, 23:14
Get yourself a copy of a book called "Why Men Don't Listen and Why Women Can't Read Maps" by Allan and Barbara Pease. It'll explain a lot of what you're asking in terms of human neuro-physiology.

Allan & Barbara Pease Official Site - Why Men Don't Listen & Women Can't Read Maps (http://www.peaseinternational.com/shopexd.asp?id=35)

Read that, then come back and ask the more specific question you actually want to answer.

8th Sep 2008, 23:28
Whirls in answer to your question it took 3 posts. :rolleyes:

This is a similar question to the classical Industrial Relations Academic arguments about Teaching and Nursing being "female" occupations (or callings).

Interestingly new technology is normally seen as "belonging" to men. For example, when typewriters were invented they were operated by men (the early speed typing record was held by a man). It was only when typing was seen to be "unskilled" that the role was relegated to women.

In the same way flying was seen to be (and to a large extent still is seen to be) both dangerous AND highly skilled. Therefore, if history teaches us anything, it is that this occupation will remain dominated by men until it is seen as both unskilled and safe. There are obviously a few pioneers who bucked this trend such as Amelia Erhardt but this was definitely the exception and not the rule.

There are a number of factors however which will go against women ever being an even number with men in the Industry. There is the requirement for good marks in science and maths which are traditionally not favourably marketed to girls in schools. There is the very un-family friendly working patterns for pilots in GA and airlines. There is the long delay between training and advancement, reliant upon seniority which is very hard for a woman to acheive if she wants a family as well. There are also a number of other factors which I can't recall right now.

I suppose one way of viewing the issue is that aviation is not so much a profession for men but rather it is a profession which maintains a number of significant barriers to entry and advancement for women.

It's a good question and have fun writing the report. I know you have said that you have fully researched the topic but if you want academic research on similar topics do a search on "calling or profession" or "gender and skills equity".

9th Sep 2008, 03:13
RESEARCH! Is flying a male thing?!

No, it isn't.

In addition to the 99s; www.whirlygirls.org (http://www.whirlygirls.org) for the rotary wing side of things.

There is no reason why women don't fly except society's expectations, which are changing and hopefully will continue to change. I hope by the time I'm old, it won't be unusual for women to fly at all.

(It'd be quite a good one for taking a man down a peg or two when they're trying it on though - "Hey babe, want to see my Ferrari?" "Sure. Want to see my helicopter?" :E *speechless*)

Der absolute Hammer
9th Sep 2008, 04:33
Flying is a male thing.
Flying dirty old turbo prop in Europe winter earlies is like driving a Caterham 7, a male toy?
Operating aircraft is a female thing also.
Operating clean warm jet in Europe winter earlies is like a new washing machine, a female toy?

9th Sep 2008, 14:20
I hope by the time I'm old, it won't be unusual for women to fly at all.

It isn't unusual now. It's relatively common. I can name several female pilot friends. The novelty has worn off long since. It hasn't been unusual for many years. Yet the take up amongst women is still relatively low. Society's expectations is no longer a barrier. The barrier is the perceived and indeed real nature of the job as described by others.

Women perhaps are the more pragmatic and sensible sex.

9th Sep 2008, 19:23
Perhaps? I would say definitly.

9th Sep 2008, 21:48
My father was an instructor in the WASP program (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_Airforce_Service_Pilots). He was always very complimentary of the women who reached the AT-6 (Harvard/Texan) stage. :ok:

10th Sep 2008, 06:15
Well, I have 4 different co-pilots I fly with, of whom 2 are female. So I make it 50% there, plus we have another three female pilots out of about 40 in all and one female aviator. (She's English, you see.)

Women in aviation is no novelty nowadays but different societies have different standards that often mean women are held back.

I don't see any particular inherent reason why they cannot do the job. After all, we don't have to parallel-park the aircraft, do we?

Der absolute Hammer
10th Sep 2008, 06:25
Lucky you not to fly some turbines with them.
With those one even has reverse gear.

Romeo India Xray
10th Sep 2008, 07:03
Here in Latvia we have over 400 pilots holding Latvian licences, only 12 (estimate from PLD - the computer doesn't diferentiate based on sex) being female. The national carrier is now getting a higher proportion of females (1 captain and several FOs), and it is quite normal to see at least one female pilot in the briefing room at any one time (out of a total of normally 10 or 12).

At least one of the female pilots has a young family elsewhere in Europe and commutes home just once a week for a couple of days. Reportedly she faces the problem that her infant child will no longer bond with her. Of course a father would have the same problem if the situation was reversed, but it seems more acceptable for fathers to be in this position than mothers.

One fact of buiding a career as a pilot is that you sometimes have to take the jobs you dont want, while you are building experience. For a woman this has implications if planning a child is a possibility, for example:

age 18 - 25 work like hell to fund flying training, modular courses etc.

age 25 - 28 flight instructing or similar.

age 28 - 32 turbo-prop hour building.

age 32 - 35 fist jet job as FO

Doesn't leave a lot of time for marriage/babies. Take a year or two out of that for kids and it is a big dent in the continuity of your career. The flip side for men is that there is seldom a need to take more than a week or two off when tiny feet patter into this world.


I have instructed many students, both male and female. My take is that the women tend to be easier to teach to fly, while men tend to make better pilots - GENERALISATION before someone shoots me down.

Generally if you tell a woman to fly a particular maneuver in a certain way, she will do it like that time after time ad infinitum. A man however will sooner or later want to do it a different way.

Also from my instructing days, I found men to be more adaptable - You could throw multiple failures at a man and he would revert to "seat of the pants" and sort it out. Women would more normally look for some way to stick to a rule they had been taught, even when none existed for that particular scenario.

Like I said, these comments are general - the most instinctive pilot I ever taught was a woman - she flew the whole flight from take off to landing on her first lesson, with no previous experience (even on flight sim), but she was the exception not the rule.


Sleep Deprivation Chamber
10th Sep 2008, 07:25
'Come fly with me' -- 'Fly me to the moon' -- 'You take me'--
Sounds like women and men are both needed for this job ;)

10th Sep 2008, 10:42
i have no problems flying with women, except the 'hottie'

Too much distraction, you know :E

10th Sep 2008, 16:38
the word sexism springs to mind....:*

Der absolute Hammer
10th Sep 2008, 17:59

Sexism is for holding doors, buying dinner, sending flowers, to remember special days which is part of female privilige.
So what you talk about is really male privilige.
So we all have a little privilige together?

10th Sep 2008, 18:17
No flowers and chocolates and all are part of mens burdens.

Child birth and PMS are part of ours.

10th Sep 2008, 19:19
Child birth and PMS are part of ours.
Really? :} :rolleyes:

I have worked in a number of male oriented environments and have only encountered genuine sexism twice and never in aviation.

The feeble hackneyed (sky pink etc etc) quips are regularly trotted out on threads like this by BOFs who think they're wags. However, pound to penny they wouldn't say it to your face and in the vast majority of cases don't really believe the sentiment behind the "joke" (I use the term loosely).

Sexism is dying and I suspect (along with a lot of PC-isms) that some people are trying to find it when it isn't there.

Like one earlier ppruner's wife has said - most women just aren't interested in it. Aviatrices on this site might find it hard to believe but I do believe that that is the case.



10th Sep 2008, 19:53
Flying is a male thing.
Flying dirty old turbo prop in Europe winter earlies is like driving a Caterham 7, a male toy?
I have known several women pilots who have flown dirty turbo prop freight aircraft in all seasons, one of them owned a Ducati. never let boring old stereotypes be your default perception.

Howard Hughes
11th Sep 2008, 02:50
Research must be a female thing, cause only a female would ask a question where the answer is OBVIOUS!;)

11th Sep 2008, 03:12
HH...great answer!! Says it all. :ok::ok:

Arm out the window
11th Sep 2008, 03:53
The old nature or nurture question, isn't it?
I'm a bloke, have flown in mainly male-oriented organisations but worked and flown with female pilots here and there.
Numbers-wise, they're well in the minority, but skills- and knowledge-wise, in my experience, there's much more variation between individuals generally than there is between men and women.
You can be a good or crap pilot regardless of what's in your undies.

However, that's not to say there's no difference between the sexes in terms of general tendencies and drives. I don't think it's unreasonable to say that women (not all, of course, but a lot) who have children feel the need to be with them in a nurturing role more than men do. My opinion is that this is something innate within us, possibly exaggerated by stereotypical societal roles but there deep down nonetheless.
I base this on various observations including home-parent role reversals my wife and I have gone through from time to time. She seems to feel it more than me when she can't be there for the kids - or maybe I'm just a bastard!
Anyhow, maybe that's a factor in keeping the numbers of women flying for a career down, seeing as it's a consuming thing that you have to put pretty much everything else aside for, particularly in the early stages of your progression. Us guys seem to be more able to drop everything that doesn't contribute to our goal.
Or perhaps I'm speaking a load of rubbish here ... it has been known to happen.:)