Women pilots around the world have a long way to go before there is gender parity in employment numbers, but in India, there are signs of progress. According to recent statistics from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISWAP), the highest percentage of female pilots are employed by Indian airlines.
Though globally, women airline pilots only account for 5.4% of pilots employed, India is currently at 12.4% (1,092 out of 8,797 pilots).
The regional airline Zoom Air, which is based in New Delhi, tops the list with biggest proportion of female pilots employed, at 30 percent. (Out of 30 pilots, nine are women, according to ISWAP figures).
Other Indian airlines that are among the proportionally highest employers of female pilots include IndiGo at 13.87% (351 out of 2,689), Spice Jet at 13.2% (113 out of 853), Air India at 12.7% (217 out of 1,710) and Air Asia at 10% (26 out of 260).
The ISWAP numbers also include the percentage of women captains in each airline. While globally, women only account for 1.55% of captains, in India, the number reaches 10.4%. IndiGo and Jet Airways are among the few airlines in the world with a hundred or more female captains. The US-based United Airlines stands at the highest with 299 female captains though its percentage for total female pilots stands at only 7.41% (940 out of 12,693).
An IndiGo official told TOI that the airline offered creches to both male and female employees, and had instituted a mandatory maternity leave policy.
Indian airline companies have “aggressively encouraged more women to become airline pilots in what they see as an upcoming pilot shortage,” Kathy McCullough, ISWAP’s communications chairwoman, told the BBC.