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Updated September 13, 2022

Gender Gap – A Myth Or Nowaday Problem?

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Gender Gap – A Myth Or Nowaday Problem? essay
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Qatar Airways, CEO Akbar Al Baker made an explosive statement at a conference organized by CAPA Centre for Aviation in Sydney, Australia. The airline boss said that Qatar Airways “has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position.” He later brushed off the comment as a joke when he was asked to explain himself. Whether or not he was serious, many people share his sentiment about what careers women are capable of and that may be a reason the gender gap exists in traditionally male-dominated industries.

Although airline executives around the world actively recruit females to represent different segments in the airline industry, the results are dismal. According to worldbank.org, 49.6% of the population is female, but when you look at the aviation industry, the senior leadership and pilot group are predominately male. The exception is customer-facing employees, which tend to be characterized as female-dominated positions. Depiction of women in aviation tends to bring up the image of the female flight attendant in a role to smile, nurture and provide food and beverages at 35,000 feet. Pilots are seen as those individuals who are in command of the aircraft and responsible for possibly hundreds of lives. The gender gaps continue to get smaller but at a snail’s pace because of Society’s conditioning about what occupations are appropriate for men and women.

The gender gap discrepancy can be seen as a top-down issue in most organizations. Most of aviation’s executive leadership consist of men. This is where the phrase the C-suite is derived from. The name implies those individuals whose positions begin with the letter C. For example, CEO, COO, CIO, CDO, CFO, etc. Very few women serve in these capacities at airlines around the world in addition to various industries as well. This C-suite can also be considered an all-boys club, which makes it a challenge for newly promoted females to gain access as a member. Even one hundred and four years after the first commercial flight across Tampa Bay in Florida, women are still underrepresented as airline leaders. This severely impacts opportunities for career advancement and attractive salaries. Men are more likely to mentor other men as they may be uncomfortable in the role of mentoring a woman. The reason for this is pretty simple. “It’s a boy’s game,” said Marcia Ferranto, Chief Executive of WTS International, which is an advocacy group for women in transportation shared with the Boston Globe that it’s a boy’s game. She further shared that “boys were brought up with planes and trains and cars. You very seldom will see a little girl’s room with airplanes all around it.” One solution is to raise awareness of the aviation industry as a viable career for young girls. If they see other women in these positions, they will feel they can do it too. When women see others like them who are in top leadership of any organization, including the aviation industry, they tend to be more attracted to the organization as they believe they truly have an opportunity to advance their careers. However, women will have to breakthrough mental obstacles and get out of their comfort zone. This can provide opportunities to seek out a support network that can encourage them through the many hurdles they will encounter.

It’s no secret the majority of commercial airline pilots are men. I have witnessed scenario of plenty of occasions. I’ve only flown with a handful of female pilots in my twenty years as a flight attendant. However, as much as we want other women to advance in this field, there is still some bias, by women towards female pilots. There are several incidents of this bias I’ve experienced when flying with female pilots. I have seen passengers going up the pilot and asking her what type of snacks will be onboard. This is while we’re waiting in the gate area for the flight to arrive. The public still doesn’t expect women to be pilots. On another occasion, I remember something similar on a trip to St. Thomas. I commented to my co-worker, a Flight Attendant, that I hope we had a light load on our flight back to Boston. This would allow us to bypass heading over to the neighboring island of St. Thomas for fuel. This fuel stop is due to precautions because of the A320 aircraft in the unlikely event we lost an engine and couldn’t scale the mountains which are right next to the runway. I couldn’t believe that my co-worker exclaimed, “I hope she knows what she’s doing.” This was because we had a female captain! I don’t believe she would have made that comment if the captain was a man. This just furthers the case that women face an uphill battle, not just from men, but from other women. Even though the airline industry may positively recruit more women into the industry, the career essentially boils down to supply and demand. If the hiring pool is small, regardless of how many incentive programs they are, the numbers will never be enough to hire enough prospects. To ensure there are more future pilots and senior leadership in aviation, parents should consider introducing not only their sons, but also their daughters to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). However, a bigger uphill battle may be that many young girls view the career of pilot as a male occupation. They traditionally see males in these roles when they fly. And when there are so few role models, along with little encouragement, the expectation is this is something that is for boys and not girls. This may discourage them from the very STEM courses to narrow the gender gap in aviation and other industries as well.

Many people, especially men will say that the gender gap is simply a myth. The reasoning behind this is because people have free will to choose the career that interests them. It may be true that men and women are naturally attracted to certain careers because of gender socialization. It is worthwhile noting that traditionally dominated male industries tend to have a higher pay grade. The gender gap takes into account several factors. These include access to education, racial bias and disability. A case can easily be made that men tend to work more hours than women, and the prevailing through is that men work harder than women. This may be true in certain cases as women may have gaps in the workforce when they are pregnant. Most of the time, women are the sole caregivers and are responsible for child rearing. Likewise, they may work fewer hours to take care of special needs children or elderly parents and relatives. Another argument about the gender gap is that men accept high stress jobs and because of this they are compensated for the mental toll it may take against them.

As much as we have high hopes for closing the gender and the wage gap, it is difficult to go against the tide of society. Around the world, many jobs are typecast as either male- dominated or female-dominated. However, there are certain jobs which both men and women get equal pay for doing the same work. In my career as a flight attendant, the pay is a set hourly rate, regardless of who performs the job. Gender is irrelevant. However, as mentioned earlier about men working more hours, the male flight attendants tend to fly more hours than some of the female flight attendants. On various occasions, I’ve noticed the interaction with passengers and my colleagues. Many passengers when they first see male attendants onboard assume they are pilots. On several occasions, I have witnessed the following scenario. During a cabin compliance check, flight attendants will ask passengers for compliance in an effort to secure the cabin for safety-related reasons. Some passengers will outright disregard instructions from a female flight attendant. On the flip side, they may be more inclined to comply when a male flight attendant relays the same instructions because they feel more at ease listening to a man than a woman. I’ve had the pleasure of working with colleagues who grew up with fathers who were pilots. Most of them are flight attendants, although you would think they would be pilots. I’ve had the opportunity to fly with one pilot who reminisced about her memories of her father. She shared he was a pilot and how she inherited her love of flying from him. Yet, some of the women flight attendants, who also had fathers that were pilots, chose the flight attendant career over a pilot career. Perhaps the men at that time in their life was influenced by the societal belief that their career was a male dominated field and unknowingly discouraged their daughters from becoming pilots. Even though the aviation industry is such a challenging industry, recruiting more women may help to solve some of the problems unique to it. Unfortunately, the gender gaps seem to have an uphill battle due to society’s ongoing conditioning about women entering male-dominated occupations and the obstacles they may face throughout their careers.

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Gender Gap – A Myth Or Nowaday Problem?. (2022, Sep 08). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/gender-gap/

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