Female captain - female pilot

The female pilot, a rarity – 5 reasons why many women are scared off

Esther Nestle
14.02.2020
2 pictures
4 minutes

Do women perform worse in the cockpit? Are women’s nerves weaker? Is it even, perhaps, their male colleagues who chase female pilots away? Are women worse at flying than men? If this were true, then the low number of women pilots would be objectively understandable. Is this so? No!

Women fly just as well as men. PERIOD.

Who is in a better position to judge the aeronautical abilities of men and women than their instructors? And they appear to agree with each other. There is no difference. Women fly just as well as men. PERIOD.

Women are, needless to say, in our training courses and their performance is in no way inferior to that of their male colleagues.

Stefan-Kenan Scheib of Pilot Schools Lufthansa Group

In my view, rather, there is a “brain gender”, because what we have found is that it is more about empathizing and systemizing brains. That has nothing to do with the physical sex of a person.

Cordula Pflaum, training captain with Lufthansa

However, there is one difference, namely, how women and men react under stress.

Under high levels of stress – that is scientifically proven – women are inclined to cry to get rid of stress whereas guys tend to develop red blotches on their necks. Those are reactions that you have to deal with.

Cordula Pflaum, training captain with Lufthansa

Whether crying or red blotches – the ultimately decisive factor is the output delivered under stress. And that is absolutely identical for women and men, despite their different reactions.

These 5 reasons make women veer away from the cockpit

  1. Stereotypes
  2. Fear of technology
  3. Fear of bashing
  4. Ever better connections with the world outside
  5. Anti-family working hours

How much of this is artificially blown up and doesn’t stand up to closer inspection? Women, my plea: Prick the inflated arguments as with a pin and burst everything that in your view isn’t airtight.

Stereotypes, lack of female-pilot role models

Men at the joystick, women at the service trolley. For this stereotype we don’t have to dig far into the past. Just 30 years ago, the roles in the air were clearly defined. And today? Between the publicised wish for equality and the imbalanced reality there still yawns an enormous chasm. To this day women lack visible role models. Even in the frequent-flyer world, women in captain-look appear on the scene extremely rarely. Indeed, the lack of role models is one of the reasons why most women don’t even have the job of pilot on their radar. More education is necessary.

Fear of technology

We see the exact opposite in every passenger cabin, because, quite clearly, here it is usually women who have the say. The job of stewardess is still near the top of the list in the heads of many girls; it is considered an absolute dream job. A large number of girls apparently consider themselves capable of working in the service team (BTW an energy-sapping job!) but would never dare to take a seat in the cockpit. Stewardess, yes. Pilot, no.

The excessive fear of technological issues is deeply rooted in many girls. They are frightened of a book of seven (un)breakable technical seals … a pity. We recognise this phenomenon from other technical professions, too, where investigative skill and a magnifying glass are necessary to spot the small percentage of women that might be present. Besides, it appears that women and girls who are in principle keen on flying overestimate the necessary standard in technical subjects. Obviously, maths and physics dyslexics would be aeronautically miscast here, but: How many young women who leave school at 18 with good exam results fall in this category?

Fear of bashing as a female pilot

Perhaps many women dread the idea of fighting with no holds barred in an (allegedly) male preserve. With good reason? Interviews on the internet with women pilots show that this fear ultimately and finally appears to be outdated. Yesterday still valid, today water under the bridge. Live your job. Not your sex. That is the motto of those who have braved the jump into the cockpit.

Ever better connections with the world outside

Become a pilot to see more of the world? This argument is growing less and less convincing (naturally not only for women). To jet around the world in a plane and visit foreign countries, and that for free – that thought has faded to a certain extent. Travelling has become ever more affordable and normal over the years; countless images from almost every last corner of our beautiful planet can be called up onto our displays via YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Co. A pilot’s licence is less necessary than ever before for these kinds of exotic experiences. Travel to foreign countries – all well and good. First and foremost, being a pilot is obviously all about the fascination of flying, the love of the job. Everything else is a nice bonus.

Anti-family working hours

Who on earth believes that family and job combine well in this case? Male pilots-to-be probably don’t ask themselves this question so often. Fact is: They do exist, pilots (male and female) in part-time jobs. They usually fly short routes – not least in order to obtain sufficient practice of take-off and landing procedures. Many airlines are increasingly battling for good personnel. As a direct result, they too have discovered equal rights for men and women as a particularly relevant topic. A situation that women (and likewise men, naturally) can increasingly profit from.

Speaking of airlines and women pilots …

Which airline currently has the highest percentage of women pilots? The data varies depending on the source. Some see Qantas Airways up in front, others the small airlines Flybe (British) and Luxair (Luxembourg), yet others United Airlines.

I would like to end this article with a citation that caught my eye during my research: “Women are the most evil species on earth.” If their huts are burning or their children are ill or the plane that they in charge of begins to lurch around, then there is nothing, really nothing, that they wouldn’t do or wouldn’t give in order to manoeuvre everyone, including themselves, out of the crisis.

by Esther Nestle

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