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Arab women seeking larger role in delivering Middle East’s aviation aspirations

HE Jameela bint Salem Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education was one the speakers at last year's edition of WIA ME General Assembly.


ICAO data shows only 5.18% of pilots are female.

DUBAI – As commercial aviation witnesses a phenomenal boom across the world, more and more women are passionately striving to become a part of the industry.

Women in airspace have transitioned from being employed as flight attendants to premier cockpit controllers. Today, a fifth of students enrolling for a commercial flying licence in India, the world’s second-most populous country, are women, which is way higher than other countries.

Compared with other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the UAE has more women pilots, captains, aircraft engineers, mechanics, aircraft maintenance and air traffic controllers, among others.

Emirates Airlines and Group currently employs nearly 27,000 women, making up 42 percent of the group’s workforce, including women pilots who includes the youngest Emirati female pilot operating the world’s biggest aircraft, A380. Over 60 of more than 4000 pilots employed by it are females. 

More than a third of the 3,770 employees at flydubai, Middle East’s fastest-growing LCC, are female with more than 1,000 female Cabin Crew members and more than 30 female Captains and First Officers. Etihad Airways currently employs over 2,850 Emirati women, including 50 female pilots and also the first Emirati woman registered as a specialist in aviation medicine. Air Arabia’s women employees include the first female Emirati holder of a multi-crew pilots (MPL) license. 

The 4th Women in Aviation (WIA) Middle East General Assembly will be held in Dubai on 1 May alongside the 19th edition of Airport Show, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group. The event will focus on the growing contribution of women in aviation globally and share best practices from around the world for over 400 attendees expected at the Dubai event.

The sponsors are: Air BP, Airbus, Boeing, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE), Falcon Aviation Services, Honeywell, LFV Consulting, MSI Air, Safran, Saudi Air Navigation Services, Strata and Yahsat

Key sessions will focus on initiatives that can help women succeed in the aviation workplace and help organisations meet ICAO’s gender parity goals, the influence of social media in the changing workplace and work-life balance issues with respect to female employment, as well as a systematic guide on how to enhance gender equality in the aviation workplace. The conference will also look at the role women are playing in the development of the region’s ambitious space programmes, especially in the United Arab Emirates.

Mervat Sultan, one of the first Arab women to obtain a flight dispatcher’s license and a Co-Founder and President of the Middle East chapter of Women in Aviation (WIA) International, said: “Just over five per cent of the commercial pilots flying worldwide are females. The Middle East’s share has not been encouraging, but things are changing. Being a woman in the aviation industry shouldn’t be about gender, but only about hard work and ability.  The barriers are disappearing as women have been successfully destroying the stereotypes.”

“Today, we can see an increasing number of women in aviation and aerospace, but still they are vastly under-represented. The opportunities are greater now than the past.  Without any doubts, women in the coming time would be scripting a different success story altogether. It’s somewhat a slow and steady process. Debates will help us in taking crucial decisions towards this end,” said Merwat who will also be addressing the WIA General Assembly.

Prince Fahd bin Mishaal Al-Saud, Vice-chairman of Saudi Aviation Club (SAC) and Chairman of GCC Aviation Authority and Sheikha Al Maskari, Chief Innovation Officer, UAE Space Agency, will address the gathering. 

The other confirmed speakers include Robert J. Gerritsen, General Manager, Air BP MENA, Al Jwahrah Al Theyeb, HR Manager Saudi Arabia, Boeing, Barbro Bolander, HR Director, LFV Consulting, Bernie Dunn, President, Boeing MENAT and Filiz Hayirli Tepebasi, Turkey Strategy Manager, Boeing.

Also addressing will be Haifa Hamedaldean, Transformation and Project Manager, Saudi Air Navigation Services, Lisa Holzmann, Deputy General Manager, MSI Air, Lisa Lyons, Vice President Trading, DAE, Maryam Al Balooshi, Manager – Environment Studies at General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Nadine Fanous, Associate Director Industry and Government Relations, Boeing and Patrick Natali, General Delegate Middle-East, Safran.

The other speakers are Rana Dajani, Associate Professor, Hashemite University, Sonja Strand, Vice President / General Manager – Global Airports, Honeywell, Suaad Al Shamsi, Senior Manager – Midfield Programme, Etihad Airways and Zeina El Hakam, Communications Manager, Boeing.

Women account for 12.4 percent of India’s pilots, with 1,092 of the total 8,797 pilots in schedule domestic airlines being women.  India has among the highest ratio of female pilots working for schedule airlines globally. Though the number might seem small, it is significantly higher than the global average of 5.4 percent and surpasses the countries like France, Japan and the US at 7.6, 5.6 and 5.1 percent, respectively.

Estimates from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots show there are 7,409 women pilots across the world accounting for 5.2 per cent of total pilot workforce. Women make up about five per cent of the 53,000 members of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the world’s largest pilot union. It estimates that between three and six per cent of pilots at the world’s largest commercial airlines are women. Representation of women on the ICAO Council is seven out of 36 members. The organisation is committed to a 50-50 gender parity by 2030. According data by the ICAO, only 5.18 percent of pilots are female.

Vicky Karantzavelou
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.