It has been a hundred years since women in Canada were granted the right to vote. We have come a long way since then. It seems strange to think that only 90 years ago women were legally declared persons under Canadian Law. In recent years, women have made up half of the Canadian workforce and, as per Statistics Canada from 2016 to 2017, 56.1% of people enrolled in post-secondary education programs were women. Despite this progression, women in some aspects of the workforce are still underrepresented, especially in the Aviation Industry. Women make up only 6% of the Commercial Pilot population, 10% in Air Traffic Control and 26% in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) occupations. With international news headlines like “A ‘Perfect Storm’ Pilot Shortage Threatens Global Aviation”, and “Canada faces severe shortage of pilots and aircraft workers”, one can’t help but think how increased presence of women in these fields could help support the industry and provide valuable careers to women across Canada.
Skilled workers in the aviation industry are in high demand in Canada and globally. The 2018 to 2037 Pilot Outlook produced by Boeing predicts that over the next 20 years the Asia Pacific region will lead the worldwide growth in demand for pilots, with a requirement for 261,000 new pilots. North America will require 206,000, Europe 146,000, the Middle East 64,000, Latin America 57,000, Africa 29,000 and Russia/ Central Asia 27,000. Projections by other aviation leaders like Airbus state that 560,000 new pilots will be required between 2018 and 2035. According to The State of Canada’s Aerospace Industry 2018 Report, Aerospace was the number one research and development player among all Canadian manufacturing industries, contributing close to a quarter of total R&D manufacturing in Canada. In today’s economic climate, women have a unique opportunity to take advantage of these skilled worker shortages and become equal players at a table that has been male dominated.
Sharing this information at primary and secondary education facilities is critical. Especially by way of public speaking. Having professionals in the field talk about their career journeys can encourage others to follow in their footsteps. Cathy Fraser, Captain at Air Canada had this to say about the importance of engaging youth, “Sometimes hearing someone talk about their career path can be more valuable than looking on the internet. When I was in high school in the ‘70s, my guidance counsellor told me I couldn’t be a pilot because I was a girl. Although there were few women pursuing aviation at that time, it was actually an option. Now guidance counsellors seek input from people in various industries by way of Career Days or job fairs.” It really is a team effort and education at school counsellor level is the first step to making an impact. Guidance counsellors can make a big difference in the numbers and push women’s involvement in aviation to new heights.
There are many different organizations which aim to promote careers in aviation to women, one of which is the Northern Lights Aero Foundation. Their mission is to spread awareness about career opportunities available for Canadian women in all sectors of aviation and aerospace by hosting and participating at many inspirational and motivational gatherings throughout the year. Joy Parker Blackwood, President of the Board of Directors says, “The seed of curiosity and inspiration must be planted with young girls at the elementary school level. Those who continue to develop a passion for this industry need continuing support and mentorship by not only family or friends but through High School teachers and guidance counselors.” The NLAF is helping to recognize and drive talent to companies across the country looking for new hires. As well, educate the educators that girls can achieve success in all aspects of the aviation and aerospace industry if they are made aware of the choices and the applicable paths of studies.
The time for more women in the industry is now, and the future is bright. Transportation Minister, Marc Garneau, had this to say in regards to the pilot shortage in Canada. “It’s no secret, there is a pilot shortage in our country. I would like to take this occasion to once again invite women to play a larger role in the future of aviation in Canada. This situation represents a tremendous opportunity for women to collaborate and make a difference in this field.” We hope it will not take another hundred years for women to be equally represented in traditionally male dominated fields and that by sharing knowledge we can impact the lives of many.
By Anna Rusinowski