Schools need to encourage girls to become pilots, says Aer Lingus

Study finds only a third of women encouraged to pursue careers in Stem

Secondary schools need to make more of an effort to encourage teenage girls to consider a career as a pilot, according to a study commissioned by Aer Lingus.

The Red C Survey, which was carried out with 500 adults aged 18-30 from across Ireland, found only a third of women were encouraged to follow a Stem (science, technology, engineering or maths) career while at school compared with half of men the same age.

And it said this was contributing to the relatively low number of women applying for Aer Lingus’s pilot training programme.

The study found that becoming a pilot was discussed significantly more in boys’ schools than in girls’ schools with just 8 per cent of women talking to their guidance councillor about how to become a pilot. While 6 per cent of men said they had considered becoming a pilot, only 3 per cent of women had considered flying as a career.


Most women said they did not consider a career as a pilot because it’s “not for me”. However, one in four did not believe they had the necessary skills while more than a third had not heard about it as a possibility while in school or college. For men, the main reason for not becoming a pilot was the perceived financial cost.

More than half of men aged 25-30 believed they would suit the role of a pilot compared with just over a quarter of women in the same age group.

Nearly 80 per cent of women said there were not enough female pilots in the profession compared with just 45 per cent of male respondents, while one-third of women said the role was “not female friendly”. Only one in three of all adults surveyed believed being a pilot would allow for a good work balance.

At present just one in 10 of Aer Lingus pilots are women, similar to most airlines around Europe, according to the company.

The findings of the survey showed that airlines need to visit schools and promote flying as a career for women, said Aer Lingus director of operations and former pilot, Davina Pratt. Myths around the work-life balance of a pilot, maths and Stem qualifications and funding for pilot training should also be addressed, she said, adding that a career in flying simply “isn’t being actively promoted to them [women] as a career option currently”.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast