A woman in aviation
We recently spoke with Jordan Milano Hazrati an MSc Student, full-time Human Factors Specialist, and student pilot to discuss what it is like to be a woman in the aviation industry. Jordan kindly shared her thoughts on what could be improved and advice for women aspiring to join the industry.
Why do you think there aren’t many women in the industry compared to men?
I believe the reason that there are much fewer women within certain areas of the industry than men, is deeply ingrained within society. It does impact different sectors of the industry differently.
For example within the cabin crew rank, there is more crew who identify as female than male, and within the flight deck, there are more pilots who identify as male than female. Disproportionately so. For example, in the UK, only 4.77% of pilots are female (Air Line Pilots Association International Trade Union), and this statistic is even lower for Captains/ Training Captains.
Historically, men and women are encouraged and expected to follow different paths within their lives, for example, it was considered socially acceptable for men to work as engineers, whereas women were expected to follow careers of a more caring nature (i.e. nursing, teaching), and balance this with raising a family.
These expectations are embedded into society through generational expectations, the hidden curriculum (i.e. what is taught to our younger generations through subconscious bias), and representation (through what women can see as opportunities open to them).
Moreover, if I had a penny for every time someone said to me ‘women like you aren’t interested in engineering or being a pilot’ I’d probably never have to work again, and it’s these assumptions that need challenging and changing.
How do you feel this could be improved?
The beautiful thing about history is that the course of such can always be changed. And there are so many incredible organisations and people out there working hard to improve diversity not only in aviation but also in the workplace in general. In my personal view from my experience in the air, and as an educator, visibility is key.
Young people need to be able to see that people like themselves can have successful careers in the flight deck. Schools, colleges, and community groups need to have access through organisations within aviation who would be willing to come into educational settings and talk to young people about their ambitions and provide advice/mentoring.
This ties in with social media as well. Like it or not, it’s here to stay and is one of the biggest sources that influence our young people’s minds. By ensuring that those pilots that are of a minority have a platform to speak and connect with young people, we can reach out to a whole new cohort of future aviators by simply saying ‘hey, I’m like you, and you can do this too’.
“…there are so many incredible organisations and people out there working hard to improve diversity not only in aviation but also in the workplace in general.”
We need to fight the belief that women aren’t interested in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) when it simply isn’t true. Women have historically been engaged in aviation, including working as test pilots and flight instructors during WW2, and therefore this view isn’t accurate.
Instead of accepting this, we need to tackle the barriers that stop women from pursuing a career in the flight deck. We also need to be prepared to challenge any discrimination that is seen or heard. By doing this we begin to break down the stigma surrounding gender within the industry.
This involves providing education and support around financing training, ensuring that organisations are trained and supported to allow those who choose to have a family to do so (there’s long-standing research that demonstrates that women believe a career in the skies is unavailable to them as a mother).
Providing networking opportunities and events to women to allow them to gain the necessary social capital. I read something once about equality that stated it’s not about lowering any standards; it’s about removing obstacles that may exist.
When it comes to increasing diversity in the flight deck, I think that this summary couldn’t be more accurate. I’m still learning, and educating myself in this matter, but I will strive to do all that I can to improve diversity and broaden the range of possibilities of the young whilst in my role.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in this industry?
I just want to say that I have never been treated any differently in my career, education, or training due to my gender. I am incredibly grateful to have been treated fairly and equally at all points and I barely put a second thought to the fact that I may be a minority until I was once asked ‘what’s it like to be a woman in your field?’.
This itself shows we have a long way to go yet. I have heard the occasional comment made such as ‘you women can’t drive, let alone fly a plane’.
When I was working as cabin crew and we had a female pilot, passengers would sometimes remark ‘oh is she any good?’ but these sorts of comments are normally made from those outside of the industry.
I believe it’s important within my position to challenge these types of comments and provide understanding as to why it’s not an acceptable thing to say.
Most people that I work alongside and have met through the industry, whether it be my managers, flight instructors, or fellow cabin crew are fully supportive and aware of the need to increase diversity within the industry.
Advice for other women looking to join the aviation industry?
Don’t be put off by being the only woman in the room. I promise you, if you have the skills, ability, drive, and determination to go after whatever role it is you want, and believe in yourself, you’ll get there anyway.
You’ll likely find yourself surrounded by people cheering you on and supporting you all the way, and even if not, reach out to fellow female aviators via social media or aviation organisations and we’ll all be there for you!
“Don’t be put off by being the only woman in the room.”
Immerse yourself in the world of aviation. Speak to fellow aviators, those aspiring, and those who’ve been successful, and share experiences. Read, and read lots. You can never know enough and there is always something else to learn.
Study hard and prepare to make sacrifices. Finally, I’d say embrace the fear, the nerves, the apprehension…. And do it anyway. Remember the saying ‘’What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?’.
What is your end goal as a woman in aviation?
My end goal ultimately is to have a long, successful, and progressive career within the aviation industry. One where I can combine my love for flying as a pilot, with my research interests within Human Factors, and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing within the aviation community.
I’ve always believed that the people that make up the industry are special, and I’m so privileged to have a role where I can make a true difference to these people. Now I’m also incredibly interested in outreach with young people on following careers into STEM subjects within aviation.
Stepping back and seeing where life takes you can sometimes be the beautiful beginning that comes out of a painful ending.