Women Pilot Statistics: Female Representation in Aviation

By Pilot Institute
Posted on April 6, 2023 - 1 minute read

Women are being recognized more and more each day as equals to their male counterparts, even in industries that have been traditionally dominated by males. In this article, we shine the spotlight on one such industry – aviation. How has the representation of women in aviation improved? Let’s look at the numbers.

What percentage of FAA-certified pilots are women?

Although there has been a steady growth in the number of female pilots in the last few decades, the percentage of female pilots remains low. If you fly commercially regularly, then you don’t even need to look at statistics to make this observation. To support this conclusion with concrete numbers, the table below summarizes the gender distribution of pilots and other aviation personnel for the year 2022.

CATEGORY TOTAL (2022) Women only Percentage
Pilot–Total 756,928 72,428 9.57%
Student 280,582 42,184 15.03%
Recreational (only) 79 5 6.32%
Sport 6,957 277 3.98%
Private 164,090 12,831 7.82%
Commercial 104,498 8,925 8.54%
Airline Transport 166,738 8,206

4.92%

Pilot Total w/o Student Category 476,346 30,244 6.34%
Flight Instructor Certificates 125,075 10,060 8.04%
Remote Pilots 304,256 24,293

7.98%

Non Pilot–Total 737,582 218,841 29.67%
Mechanic 320,042 8,633 2.70%
Repairmen 37,861 2,087 5.51%
Parachute Rigger 7,495 794 10.59%
Ground Instructor 76,109 6,177 8.12%
Dispatcher 24,526 4,931 20.11%
Flight Attendant 246,195 195,105 79.25%
Flight Engineer 25,325 1,114 4.40%

The standard flight training program is designed for male students, who comprise around 90% of any training group. As such, most flight instructors are also male. This can sometimes make it more difficult for female flight students to receive social support from their peers.

Along with this sense of alienation is the feeling among female flight students that they need to perform better than their male counterparts to even be considered an average pilot. This increased pressure to perform, along with the lack of social support, can be enough to discourage even the most brilliant female flight students.

3. Perceptions

Several studies have shown that female pilots tend to be judged more negatively when they make errors.

More than sexist comments, separate studies have shown that female pilots are judged as being less competent. This trend in responses was observed whether the respondents were male or female, or pilots or non-pilots.

What will it take to promote better gender representation in aviation?

The barriers that women pilots face are getting more attention.

In 2018, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with the South African Civil Aviation Authority conducted the first Global Aviation Gender Summit. The conference tackled gender-related agenda, citing how women are under-represented among FAA-certified crew and in the senior management teams of airlines. A similar conference was held in Seoul in June 2018, aptly entitled ‘Shattering the Ceiling – The Rise of Woman in Asian Aviation.’

The Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is a global event that aims to spread awareness about gender imbalance in the aviation industry. It was launched back in 2011 and has been attended by aviation companies, associations, and individuals who wish to showcase the opportunities that the aviation industry can offer to women. The next iteration of the event will take place from March 2 to 8, 2020.

To provide a community for female aviation professionals, the Women in Aviation International (WAI) was founded back in 1994. This non-profit organization serves as a support group for mentors and advisors to get in touch with female colleagues in the aviation industry. WAI now has more than 12,000 members globally, including men who support better female representation.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University hosts day events and summer camps where middle-school and high-school girls can be introduced to opportunities in aviation and even go on introductory flights. Through these events, Embry-Riddle is hoping that more girls catch the “flying bug” and pursue a career in aviation when they grow up.

Another solution is to provide scholarships so that women can afford flight lessons. In 2019, Boeing announced funding of $3 million for scholarships to be granted to under-represented populations in the aviation industry. The target group included females, minorities, and veterans.

Final thoughts

While other industries, such as the medical field or law enforcement, have enjoyed a marked improvement in female representation, aviation is still struggling. Progress over the past few years has been growing.

It’s going to take the collaborative effort of communities, corporations, training facilities, and individuals to help more women succeed in aviation.

Scored % on their FAA Exam