• Although women have reached all levels of aviation, they are still under-represented and a male culture in the industry is being blamed. (Shutterstock)
    Although women have reached all levels of aviation, they are still under-represented and a male culture in the industry is being blamed. (Shutterstock)

An interim report this week into the participation levels of women in aviation has concluded that aviation is a male-dominated industry that is not appealing to women.

The Barriers to the Pipeline interim report was compiled after Women in Aviation and Aviation/Aerospace Australia surveyed 180 people of which 86% were women.

Analysis of the report revealed that 80% of respondents agreed that the male domination of the industry was itself a barrier to more women considering a career in aviation, with 70% concerned about abuse and discrimination.

Only about 6% of people in aviation in Australia are female.

"Though progress has been made regarding women’s perception of the aerospace sector, the overall picture is of an industry still hostile to women," the report concludes.

"Most survey respondents indicate that the existing gender imbalance is a significant barrier to women entering the sector, and a majority also note perceptions and experiences of harassment and discrimination.

"These experiences are sufficiently negative that multiple survey respondents stated that they would not recommend the industry to young women; it is hard to imagine a clearer indictment of the sector than this."

The survey and interim report was funded by the Federal Government's Women in the Aviation Industry Initiative, which has been running for four years and will continue after another $4 million in funding.

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King said the Barriers to the Pipeline report provided valuable data for the initiative.

"The Australian Government is committed to supporting a strong and thriving aviation industry which boasts a great working environment for all Australians, including women," King said.

“This research helps us identify what barriers exist, as well as what new and effective mechanisms could be established to overcome barriers and empower the next generation of women to join the aviation sector.

"It will also help the aviation industry improve work practices and develop strategies to attract and retain talent, supporting a stronger aviation workforce into the future.

“With 80% agreeing male domination of the industry is the greatest barrier, it is clear there continues to be a role for the Women in the Aviation Industry Initiative, not just in improving representation and diversity, but also in contributing to broader action to see more inclusive and equitable work environments.

“I’m determined to see greater female participation not just in aviation, but all across the transport sector."

The interim report also concluded that a lack of flexibility around part-time employment and maternity leave needed improving and that there was "broad dissatisfaction with the availability of information regarding opportunities in the sector."

According to the report, 90% of women in aviation were motivated by passion for aviation itself, and 56% of respondents cited exposure to a role model or mentor as a reason for getting into aviation.

Many of the comments collected during the survey were particularly damning, including:

  • “High stress, generally low paid, exploitative profession. I advise young women stay away”
  • “My experience in the aviation industry between 2016 and 2021 confirmed with me the rude, sexist, discriminating and bullying environment that many perceive that it is. Extremely disappointing.”
  • “I absolutely loved my job. But, knew I would never be good enough to lead in the eyes of the leadership team due to their unconscious bias.”
  • “My aviation workplace is dominated by men with outdated and problematic opinions. If this were to change, I would think that we would have a more diverse industry as those who start their path would stick around longer as they would feel safe at at work and their skills valued.”

The report also concluded that the any change to the male culture of aviation would need to be driven by upper management.

"The more acute issues of systemic gender discrimination, harassment and bias are less straightforward; multiple respondents noted that the bias and discrimination often come from the upper levels of company hierarchy," the report states.

"While change is needed at all levels, change at the top is evidently particularly critical."

It has been noted in the report that the data presented was "relatively superficial" and that the small number of women in the field meant that statistically significant results may be hard to produce when considering demographics.

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