06 Sep 2018
#BreakingGlassCeiling: India hires more female pilots than any other country
Written byPallabi ChatterjeeBusiness
Indian society has always been tagged patriarchal and rightly so. But there is one section that's aiming to break that label: the aviation sector, where 12% of commercial pilots are women.
This is highest globally. In most Western countries, including Australia and US, it's less than 5%.
And given how India is world's fastest-growing aviation market, it's expected that the number will soar further.
IndiGo, SpiceJet leading the pack
Companies like IndiGo, SpiceJet are leading the way on this. In IndiGo, low-cost airline headquartered at Gurugram, 13% of their pilots are women, which is around 330 employees.
It was 10% five years ago. Some of their pilots are also managers, said company officials, adding they also have provision of day-care.
Pregnant women are offered office duties and allowance equivalent to their fellow pilots.
SpiceJet's target: 3 years, 33% of female pilots
Likewise, 12% of SpiceJet pilots are women, with some doubling up as department heads. Company chairman Ajay Singh has mandated to take this up to 33% in the next three years. Among many things, they give women a fixed monthly flying schedule and also pick-and-drop facility.
"It was male-dominated and not easy to break into"
Veteran pilots like Shweta Singh and Rupinder Kaur chose this profession at a time when society frowned upon females being pilots.
"It was difficult. It was a male-dominated area and not easy to break into," Singh recalled, but "society is changing."
Meanwhile 37-year-old Kaur, who was jobless for a year despite getting her flying license, maintains, "It's still not that easy for us."
Aviation sector is unique, as no gender-pay gap exists here
Given everything, Singh insists, being a pilot is "the safest job. Women are more protected here than in anywhere else."
Adding to the safety is the absence of gender pay-gap and flying hours, which are all fixed as per union agreements.
The pay is dependent on your seniority, with the starting salary fixed between $25,000-47,000 (Rs. 17L-33L) annually, depending to the airline and aircraft.
In next 20 years, 8 lakh new pilots needed
When it comes to demand, here is the statistics: Plane-maker Boeing Co says over the next 20 years, there'll be a need of 7,90,000 new pilots, globally.
In India, domestic capacity is growing at 22%, so there sure is a pull. Fortunately, as per data, enrolment rate of girls for commercial-pilot courses has also spiked from 10 to 25% in the last five years.