New report on discrimination and lack of diversity in airline training

Media Relations Team, 07 March 2022

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Female airline pilot seated in cockpit.

A major report released today shines a light on the significant problem of gender discrimination and the lack of gender diversity amongst pilots in the airline industry, with a specific focus on the airline pilot trainer role. 

The report is made publicly available in time for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022.

The joint report by the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) and the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) considered survey responses from more than 700 airline pilots worldwide, 750 personal testimonials and eight hours of focus groups. 

The study investigates why so few pilot trainers are female and explores the barriers to female pilot career progression.

While women make up only 5.26% of the global pilot workforce, the numbers of female pilot trainers are even worse. For example, in the UK just 0.9% of Type Rating Examiners (TREs), a type of airline trainer, are women (CAA, 2022).

Among the report’s major findings were some extremely concerning reports of overt and covert sexism and sexual harassment towards women, including frequent reports of an “old boys’ network” and a lack of female role models and mentors. 

Structural barrier identified include: a lack of transparency around recruitment and selection; and the vast majority of airlines and training organisations refusing to allow pilot trainers to work part-time, which has a disproportionate effect on women.

In addition, 42% of women in the survey reported that they had been treated differently at work and 30% that they had been discriminated against, due to their gender. 

Captain Marnie Munns FRAeS, a current airline pilot, and one of the report’s authors said:

“Training is the first point of contact for the next generation of pilots and if we want to attract the best talent, we need to ensure we appeal to everyone with the right abilities irrespective of gender, ethnicity or age.  A much more diverse training department will ensure that there are visible role models and a more inclusive training environment for all.”

Professor Susan Durbin FRAeS, MCIPD, from UWE Bristol, said: 

“This independent report reveals the experiences of pilots and pilot trainers across the UK and international airline industries. It is clear from the findings that the industry is a long way from achieving gender equality, for example, not offering the pilot trainer role on a part-time basis is detrimental to women as it holds them back from progressing their careers and excludes them from training roles. I sincerely hope that the industry will seriously consider the findings of this report and take the necessary recommended actions. Through this study, we have enabled the voices of men and women in the industry to be heard; I believe it is time for the industry to listen and take urgent action.”  

David Edwards FRAeS, Chief Executive of the Royal Aeronautical Society said:

“I am pleased that the Royal Aeronautical Society has been involved in researching this important topic.

“I am proud of the role the Royal Aeronautical Society has played in promoting diversity and inclusion in our industries. Our Alta platform, which seeks to link up women in aerospace and aviation with mentors, has been a great success, and will hopefully help to tackle one specific problem raised in the report – that of a lack of female role models and mentors.

“The issues highlighted in this report need to be urgently addressed. As the airline industry recovers from the devastating impact of Covid it should look at any lessons that can be learnt, especially around part-time working, which has been shown to work during this period.”

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