Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education & Research





Key words

allyship, gender bias, culture, s-frame, aviation


Why is there greater gender parity for long-haul truck drivers, astronauts, and paleontologists than for women airline captains? This study uses a mixed-methods approach to examine the underlying causes of the gender imbalance in the United States aviation industry, in which only 3.6% of airline captains are women. Two polls and one survey gather data from professional pilots (N=1093) on their experience with stereotyping, gender bias, and allyship. Direct comments were analyzed to shed light on the results of the survey. Results suggest that, contrary to prevailing perceptions, the persistent gender imbalance in the flight deck can largely be attributed to an ingrained and self-perpetuating negative culture cycle unique to the flight deck and a lack of allyship which affects the recruitment and retention of women pilots. Findings from self-identified male pilots (N=575) revealed that the majority of potential allies are not participating in resolving the gender imbalance because they do not see it as their responsibility. The authors develop a model depicting this cycle and propose a novel system-level (s-frame) solution to fundamentally change the culture.



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