If you’re a woman born and brought up in India, you’d definitely have first-hand experience with issues like rape, molestation, eve-teasing, patriarchal injustice, and gender bias in a million ways. This is true for every single woman in India. And for some of them, misogyny lurks above their fate even before they’re born. Female feticide isn’t a myth for Indians even today. However, among all this negativity and injustice, we have good news. In fact, it’s great news — India has the highest number of women pilots when compared to the rest of the world.
According to a survey by the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, only 5.18% of the world’s total pilot population is women. This is sad because for twenty flights that take off, only one of them is piloted by a woman. However, in India, the percentage of women pilots is 12.4% and we stand high and proud among other countries for having the highest number of women commercial pilots. India is far ahead of much-developed countries like the US (5.1%), Japan (5.6%), and France (7.6%). India’s statistics prove that our women are capable of becoming cockpit controllers and not just air hostesses.
There are four major reasons why India is a trailblazer for this surprisingly higher number of women pilots in the field of aviation. Let’s take a look at these reasons that helped our women sprout wings and fly up high into the sky.
1. Maternity Benefits
The women pilots in India are entitled to paid maternity leave for a period of 26 weeks. Apart from the UK, there aren’t many countries that provide this benefit to their female pilots. Earlier even in India this paid leave period was just for 12 weeks. However, things changed for the good after the Maternity Benefits Act in 2017 that gave a helping hand for our women pilots who are to become mothers.
2. Zero Wage Gap
Aviation is probably one of the very few professions in India that enjoy a zero wage gap. Women and men are always paid differently in our country even if they do the same kind of work for the same number of hours. Luckily, in this profession, the only thing that’s considered while deciding the pay of a pilot is their work experience, the number of hours they have captained a flight, and the type of aircraft they will be flying. Generally, an Indian pilot’s salary ranges from Rs 3,00,000 to Rs 8,00,000 per month and we’re glad that it’s the same for male and female pilots without any gender discrimination.
3. Flexible Work Hours And Allowances
Indigo Airlines has set a benchmark for all the major airline companies across the world by introducing flexible work hours and allowances for its women pilots. They not only hire a higher number of female pilots but also introduce favorable policies to retain them. For example, women pilots who are pregnant are offered services like crèches and are given office roles during flying duty breaks. Also, there are additional allowances that help in compensating for any loss in income for these women cockpit leaders.
4. Armed Protection
Women employees of all the airline companies are provided pick-up and drop services during the time between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. During this service, they will be accompanied by an armed guard to ensure their safety. This is applicable for not just women pilots but for all women employees including the cabin crew. The measure was taken after the terrifying rape incident that took place in 2012, in Delhi.
Women In Flying Colors
Sarla Thakral, at the age of 21 flew a Gypsy Moth solo to become the first Indian woman pilot in the history. This was back in 1936 when she got a license to fly towards her dreams. And in 1947, Prem Mathur created history by becoming the first Indian commercial pilot. She kick started her flying career with the domestic airline company Deccan Airways. For Indian Airlines, it was Durba Banerjee who became the first woman pilot in 1956.
Coming to the present decade, an all-women crew Captained by Kshamata Bajpai of Air India set a world record of flying from San Fransico from Delhi in 2017. With companies coming up with more and more women-friendly policies, we hope to see women build up at least half of the pilot population. As proof of this, we have more women students entering the prestigious aviation schools in the country today.
Today, we can proudly say that we have the highest percentage of women pilots in the world. And we’re moving a step ahead every day because now we have women fighter pilots like Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth, and Mohana Singh Jitarwal in the Air Force apart from the commercial pilots. Have you ever considered aviation as a career option? Let us know in the comments below.