Nivedita Bhasin was the world’s youngest commercial airline captain in 1989. Yet, the Indian pilot still calls her early years and other crew would urge her to rush into the cockpit so passengers wouldn’t get nervous at the sight of a woman flying their plane.
Some years later, after Nivedita Bhasin’s career began, female pilots were no longer a rarity in India. They are making the country a success story when it comes to diversity in the airline industry. Now, India has the highest percentage of female pilots globally, the International Society of Women Airline Pilots estimates, with about 12.4% of all pilots women, compared with 5.5% in the US, the world’s largest aviation market, and 4.7% in the UK.
The statistics raised questions about how a nation, placed in the 135th among 146 countries on the World Economic Forum’s ranking of nations based on gender parity, could reverse the trend in this particular industry. They also have some benefits as hiring more women could also help airlines address the staff shortages that are disrupting travel as the world emerges from the Covid pandemic and demand rebounds.
“India has started decades ago recruiting women into STEM positions, including pilots. In the U.S. We have only started the demand for a diversity movement in aviation because of our current drastic pilot and technician shortage.”said Michele Halleran, a professor and director of diversity initiatives at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.
The Indian Air Force had started recruiting women pilots for helicopters and transport aircraft back in the 1990s. It wasn’t until this year that they were allowed to take up fighter roles.