<Back to Insights

Women in Aviation

21 March, 2024
Jennie Short

The future is bright for Female Pilots 

Female pilots share their positive experiences of pursuing a traditionally male-career and offer essential guidance to women aspiring to earn their wings.

It’s no secret that aviation has an issue when it comes to the representation of women flying professionally. According to the most recent figures from CAPA and ICAO, just 4% to 6% of pilots globally are women and only 4% in Europe.

Although the figures may appear discouraging, active female pilots say there is every reason for women to be optimistic about pursuing a career in the cockpit. When asked in a recent Simtech Aviation webinar, “What is it really like to be a female pilot in a male-dominated field?” the unanimous response was: “Wonderful.”

The webinar, held on 7th March to celebrate International Women’s Day, gave an audience of aspiring female pilots the chance to hear from six inspirational women excelling in aviation. Taking us through their journeys from dream to flight deck, they shared invaluable guidance for women undertaking pilot training and insight into what to expect along the path to a successful flying career.

Here’s what they shared:

  • You will be hooked from your first flight

Whether it’s a prior career in aviation or a lifelong dream that has inspired you to become a pilot, be prepared for your first flight to ignite an enduring passion for flying.

As Captain Catriona (Cat) Murphy, Emerald Airlines explains “Once you have that first lesson you think “I can’t believe you can get paid for doing this!” I still pinch myself every time I put the power on to take off.”

For women at the start of their journey, a SIM experience gives a great first taste of flying.

  • Expect plenty of encouragement during pilot training

Contrary to stereotypes, the experience women have of training to become a pilot is overwhelmingly positive.

I’ve never felt as if I was treated any differently by any of the instructors throughout my whole pilot training,” says Aine Kennedy, First Officer, Emerald Airlines. “Even in my old job as cabin crew they were always very encouraging to me, offering me the jump seat and telling me about all the systems and the planes.

The sentiment is echoed by Cat Murphy: “Honestly, I never, ever felt that being female held me back. If anything, I felt I was nurtured all those years.

First Officer, Lucrezia Negrini, Zimex who is currently working for the Red Cross in South Sudan, agrees: “It’s just all positive. I would encourage all women to becomepilots.

  • You will be part of a growing trend

The growing numbers of women gaining their pilot’s license is testament to their experience. Roxanne Scott-Williams, First Officer, Wizz Air shares:

Although numbers of female pilots dipped during the pandemic, they are rising again. For example, at a previous airline I worked for, 51 of 376 pilots are female which is great and other airlines are following. There is definitely a positive upswing in the attitude towards female pilots.”

Emilija Ivaskaite who is undertaking pilot training while working as ATO Training Coordinator at SmartLynx Airlines reports the same: “In the past couple of years I’ve seen quite a big increase; half the class in my flight school are girls.”

I know with Emerald Airlines they’re only delighted to get more women pilots to join. In the last two years, the number of female pilots at Emerald has doubled from 9 to 18. So that’s very good,” adds Cat Murphy.

While there is still a long way to go, the upward tick is highly encouraging to aspiring female pilots.

  • Choose your training school wisely but don’t be deterred if you cannot afford the best

Selecting the right flight school is critical. Aim for the best, but don’t let expense hold you back.

Aviation is expensive,” says Lucrezia Negrini, who is Italian but completed her pilot training in Canada. “But I would advise that if a fine school is slightly more expensive than another, go for it because it’s going be worth it afterwards.”

However, Roxanne Scott-Williams also encourages women not to be discouraged if their budget is limited. “At the end of the day it comes down to how much work you put in. So, if money is the reason that you won’t be getting that piece of paper, go with the cheaper option and give it the best that you’ve got; you can always do more self-study and network the information that you’re not getting from flight school.

  • Build a strong network of experienced pilots, both male and female

Networking and mentoring are invaluable tools at every step of your flying career whether you’re just starting out, choosing where to complete your MCC (Multi-Crew Cooperation training), or even prepping for your next SIM.

If you can, get in touch with more experienced pilots in the early stages of your training and take that through your career with you,” says Roxanne Scott-Williams.

Hana Blom, First Officer, SmartLynx Airlines also encourages women to find female role models; for her it was her MCC instructor: “She was very motivating for me,” she says, “and she really encouraged me never to be afraid to speak up as a woman in a man’s industry.

  • Never stop learning, and don’t dwell on your mistakes

Flying is an incredibly rewarding career in which you never stop learning. One of the most invaluable things to learn as a female pilot is accepting your mistakes and quickly moving past them.

As women, we are inherently hard on ourselves. It’s okay to make mistakes. It will continue your whole career as a pilot. Park it and move on with the rest of your day, because if you don’t – and I’ve seen this happen – the trajectory just goes downwards. If you can learn that early on, it will make your career so much better,” says Cat Murphy.

  • Give it all you’ve got!

Despite the positive outlook for female pilots, it still takes an incredible amount of dedication and determination to succeed.

Emilija Ivaskaite urges women to ignore the naysayers and follow their dream: “I would say, focus on the people that support you because there’s always going to be people who say it’s not for you. But if you truly want that, just go for it.”

Roxanne Scott-Williams echoes her advice: “I would say just give it all you’ve got and enjoy every minute of it.

Finally, Cat Murphy underlines the magic of flying:

The novelty doesn’t wear off even after twentysomething years. It’s just an amazingcareer, and I think we’re incredibly lucky to be in it. And it’s just great to see so many more females being involved.

As student pilots reach the end of their flight school journey and are considering doing their MCC training, Simtech offers guidance and support. As a Pilot Training Centre of Excellence and an Approved Training Organisation (ATO) with strong ties to airlines, we also provide valuable advice on upcoming First Officer roles, ensuring cadets are well-prepared to meet individual airline requirements. We’re always happy to answer your questions; you can contact us here.