Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO, Flybe, Flyshe, women, girls, engineer, chief, management, airline, aviation, IATA, men, gender, equality
Flybe CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener, centre, and colleagues (photo: Flybe)

Flybe becomes FlyShe for more women in aviation

The initiative is aimed at getting more young women to train to be pilots, engineers, flight mechanics and managers.

There should be more women in the aviation industry, says the UK-based regional airline Flybe, and to that end it has just launched a campaign called FlyShe.

Jobs from pilots to flight mechanics to chief executives continue to be largely the realms of men, despite recent initiatives by carriers like easyJet to recruit more young women as trainees.

Flybe’s campaign is also aimed at luring more women to aviation, initiated by Christine Ourmières-Widener, the airline’s chief executive, a mother of three in her fifties who is also a keen marathon runner.

One of just a handful of women aviation leaders worldwide – as a recent photo of the governing body of IATA attests – she started by working her way through the ranks at Air France, from trainee engineer to becoming its chief for the UK and Ireland.

She then spent five years from 2010 as chief executive of CityJet, which now operates wet-lease services for SAS, Air France and others.

Ourmières-Widener wants FlyShe to inspire young women to train as pilots, engineers and flight mechanics or for airline management. Forecasts indicate that the industry will double in size by 2035, which means airlines need 637,000 new pilots, for example, to meet global demand.

Helping girls aspire
Independent research recently conducted for Flybe shows that girls are half as likely as boys to aspire to becoming an aviation engineer and four times less likely to want to be a pilot. Yet they are three times more likely than boys to want to be part of the cabin crew.

“Aviation is still very much a male-dominated industry,” Ourmières-Widener said. “There are many reasons for this gender imbalance, but the main one is that the pipeline of female talent in engineering and piloting is simply not there.”

Flybe is launching an online hub, and will roll out initiatives like getting female pilots and engineers to talk to school students and creating educational materials for schools.

One hurdle for many is financial, as training to be a pilot is so costly. The British union BALPA is currently lobbying airlines and politicians to do more and is initiating funded apprenticeship schemes for pilots.

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