The female pilot changing gender stereotypes in the Middle East and beyond

Finn talks to Alia Twal, a first officer with Royal Jordanian and ambassador for The Ninety-Nines, an association for female pilots.

Gender diversity in aviation is poor. For example, the UK pilot population is 95% male, with only 608 women in the UK holding a flight crew licence, according to BALPA. The most up-to-date FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) statistics find that just 6% of commercial pilots are women. The numbers aren’t much better in other areas such as engineering.

On how we fix this,  Twal said: “We have to start to encourage woman when they are young by showing them examples and ‘heroes’. We have to start going to career days at school, and even from kindergarten to present the female pilot – let them see something in front of them and have an aim [to be like these female pilots when they grow up].”

“Maybe we also have to focus on the media as well,” she added. “Movies  how many people became pilots after watching Top Gun? Maybe a fighter movie with a female pilot will help to create a change.”

Changing attitudes

Twal flies in the Middle East, which also doesn’t have the best reputation for gender equality. It was only in June 2018, for example, that Saudia Arabia allowed women to hold driving licences.

Are things changing?

Twal said: “I think the Middle East is hungry for a change. As Alia and a female pilot in The Ninety-Nines, I'm very proud to be part of this wave of change in the Middle East. Everything is changing rapidly. There are more people that are interested in aviation. We're working on the image for parents so they can accept their daughters as female pilots."

“I think the Middle East is hungry for a change."

“Now, with good examples of women who not just became pilots, but secured positions in management and as flight instructors ….it's changing slowly and people are wanting their daughters to do the same.

“I am stopped every day in the airport [with people saying]: ‘Look, she's a female pilot. You can grow up and be like her’.

"In Jordan, we have seven [female pilots] in Royal Jordanian Airlines, and we have a few female pilots that are already in the training schools. Slowly it's changing, but we are getting there.”

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