The aviation and aerospace industries have developed comprehensively since their establishment many years ago. Eventually, the vastly male-dominated sectors have experienced substantial changes to include woman aviators and engineers. Determined females started this process via participation in aircraft engineering fields and pursuing professions as airline pilots. Nevertheless, these females faced countless challenges, which led to setbacks to their effectual growth in the sectors. Serious issues experienced in the past still exist today and are repeatedly ignored in the sectors. Hence, there is the need to identify these issues and suggest solutions that will lead to an increase in the number of females in the aviation/aerospace sector.
Females entering the workforce in engineering and other prominent positions in the aviation industry
Women have been present in the aviation industry for many years. However, their representation in the industry, especially in areas like aeronautic engineering, flight engineering, pilot, and the like is wanting. Moreover, only a few females are entering the sector (Royal Aeronautical Society, 2009). According to McCarthy, Budd, and Ison (2015), the underrepresentation poses a significant challenge to the industry, governments, as well as the educational community. The dominant believe that engineering, airline pilots, and similar fields are males’ preserve may act to discourage females from pursuing a career in the areas. Women engineers are also victims of sexist remarks and behaviors from male colleagues. With the continuing growth of commercial aviation and the ever rising demand for skilled workers, the failure to hire and retain female engineers and pilots poses a substantial drawback for the sector and the economy in general. The reason for this is the fact that the shortage of skilled labor will hinder growth and the attainment of gender equality. Therefore, companies and authorities need to find ways to capitalize on female workers (McCarthy, Budd, and Ison (2015). Understanding the reasons why a few women are joining the field is essential in addressing the issue of underrepresentation.
The absence of Role Models
One of the main reasons for the underrepresentation of females in the aviation/aerospace industry is the absence of noticeable role models. Young females do not believe that women can fit in occupations like engineering and piloting because there are a limited number of well-known ladies in such positions. If young ladies are exposed continuously to prosperous role models in the field, then more of them would have a positive attitude towards the occupations. The media also has a role in this. They can help improve the situation by airing stories of successful women in the industry. If young ladies continually watch stories showing the accomplishments of their predecessors, they will have more interest in the industry. Moreover, if young girls see women at work, there is a possibility that they will start thinking about pursuing the same career. Therefore, exposing the young females to aviation is a key to satiating the labor needs in the realm (Garrun, 2013).
Lack of information
Another thing that hinders adequate representation of the females is lack of information. Teachers, parents, and other people involved in children education fail to understand the primary influencers on the career choices of the young generation. As a result, many young girls do not have enough information on the roles of engineers, and other major players in the aviation industry. The girls, therefore, end up choosing the distinguished careers in education (Garrun, 2013).
Providing the young girls with the necessary information before they advance in their education is of paramount importance. Research has shown that females are relatively interested in the STEM subjects until they are sixteen years. However, only a small percentage of the girls are on the list of those in further education. Aviation organizations also have a role in promoting the place of females in the industry. Some like Airbus have embarked on supporting the entry of women into the industry. The organizations are running several initiatives to inspire more girls to do the STEM subjects. Airbus, for instance, has started a three-month program whose objective is to help sixty girls learn aeronautical engineering as well as aviation (McCarthy, Budd, and Ison (2015).
These efforts by companies in the industry help in informing, transforming, and challenging the existing views. Some jobs like aircraft maintenance engineers are typically viewed as male-oriented. Companies can do something to make the occupations more attractive to females, for instance, by allowing flexible hours that will help them balance between business and family issues. The firms can also come up programs that will help in rolling out industry information to females in schools and other areas (Garrun, 2013).
Lack of practical inspiration
Lack of practical experience is another thing that promotes women underrepresentation in the aviation and aerospace industries. Organizations should, therefore, consider giving females hands-on experience, as this can play a vital role in inspiring young girls about their career in the aviation sectors. Programs should be put in place to ensure that women are equipped with enough information about the sector. Most girls will never get interested in aviation until they hear about it (Garrun, 2013).
Wannabe female engineers and aviators also aspire to be wives and mothers. However, they face difficulties while trying to balance family and career ambitions. Some organizations expel female engineers and pilots if they become pregnant. Others will give them a one year leave, after which they will have to reapply for the job. Therefore, pregnancy can easily stall the females’ progress in the aviation industry. The cost of replacing female workers who have gone for leave also worries Aviation Companies as they may decide to resign, and this would increase the turnover. As a result, the organizations may avoid hiring female aviators and engineers. The cost of training as an engineer or a pilot also discourages females from joining the aviation and aerospace industry as it is too high (Liberty Univeristy, 2010).
Possible solutions to the problem
Research indicates that firms with a high representation of females in the workforce typically perform better than those with low representation. Companies like Airbus have come up with a training program known as GROW for females. The objective of the program is to train ladies for top management positions. The program has been beneficial to females in the aviation industry as they are encouraged to grow their career rather than shifting to other fields. Other organizations should emulate the company to ensure they encourage the few women in the industry to remain there and attract more into the sector (Garrun, 2013).
Females also need to believe in their capabilities and enhance their networking skills. Though it is difficult for them to be in areas where they are greatly outnumbered, valuable networking is essential to help them grow their careers. Mentoring is also a key to their success in the field. Therefore, there is the need to encourage male workers, who are many, to mentor their female counterparts (Garrun, 2013).
In some countries, organizations are required to leave a certain percentage of slots in the workforce for women. This method may also be applied in aviation where companies will be required to allocate a specific number of engineering or piloting slots to females. The move will probably lead to an increase in the representation of women in the sector. Balancing job and motherhood is also a challenge to female engineers. Some leave to have kids, and others even depart before as they feel that they cannot accomplish professional and personal goals at the same time. Many decide to take easier jobs that will allow them to balance between work and life. There is the need for the industry to help females grown their careers in the sector, and bring an alternative to the long-hours culture that affects females who come back after beginning a family. In spite of the tough road ahead, the industry should remain optimistic about the increase in the representation of females in the sector. The good thing is that there are more opportunities now than any other time before (Garrun, 2013).
In sum, the representation of women in the aviation/aerospace fields is inadequate, and some factors contribute to the underrepresentation. The first reason as for why there are few female engineers, pilots and the like in the industry is the limited number of role models. The females, therefore, do not have someone to make them believe that they can pursue a career in aeronautical engineering and other critical areas in the sector. The limited exposure does not catch the attention of young girls to aviation. Hence they join other fields. The second factor is the lack of information. Young girls do not know what engineers do. Thus, they enter other popular fields at the expense of aviation. Other factors that lead to the underrepresentation are family matters and the lack of hands-on experience. The solution to these problems includes exposing the young girls to the necessary information, starting programs to encourage the girls to join the field, availing conditions in the workplace that are friendly to women, among others. Such efforts will make the industry attractive to the women.