Sunday, February 8, 2015

Woman Pilots - Some Data

The subject of "why are there so few women pilots" came up again this weekend. It comes up every so often and when it does it is usually someone citing data from 2010 saying only 6% of certificated pilots are women.  The roughly 6% number is correct when you look at FAA data for 2013. However, I think that isn't so dire as it appears. Not to say we don't need more women pilots, but bear with me for a discussion on some other data.  This data comes from the FAA Civil Airman Statistics for 2013.

Women as a % of Pilots by Age Group
42% of active pilots as of 2013 are 50 or older. I believe this fact is important because I believe the majority of pilots in this group came from the military. While the military did employ female pilots for some duties, there were far more male military pilots. When these military pilots retired they became the majority of the US civil aviation pilot population. It's no wonder women are such a small portion of the overall pilot population with the head start men have!

If you look at the number of women pilots when you narrow the age groups to under 50, under 40, under 30 and under 20 years old you find the women as a % of the total pilot population goes up.

Women account for 8.2% of the < 50 year old pilot population and that goes up to 13.7% of the < 20 year old population.

Women as a % of Student Pilots by Age Group
If you look at women as a % of student pilots the picture looks even better.

Women count for 12% of the entire student pilot population, thats almost double the 6.6% of the overall population.

We are 12.2% of the under 50 population and 14.6% of the under 20 population. We're 16.7% of the 14-15 year olds that are preparing to solo today! To me that's a great sign. Young women and teens today are not so hesitant to pursue a flying dream.

In fact, comparing these two tables, student pilots to all pilots, it appears women of all ages are pursuing the flying dream at a higher rate than our % of the general population.

It will be a long time before we overcome the effect of the military pilot surge and the general inertia of the "flying is not a job for women" bias of the early and middle 20th century. But I believe the tide is shifting. We need to work to continue that shift.

The thing I don't have data on, and I think I may have to contact the FAA to get it is, what % of women student pilots actually finish their private pilot training and earn their certificates compared to male students. My flight instructor, who's been instructing for 15 years now, says a much lower % of women finish than men in his experience. Do we learn differently? Do we need more support? More flexibility? Is he bad at training women? (I don't think so) It's a little project I'll do at some point - probably once I've finished my CFI training.


  1. Hi Anissa! Thanks for breaking it down like this. I've done a lot of work in the past to promote women into aviation and the way you explained the FAA database makes me think that maybe times are a changing!

    1. I sure hope so! We have to keep going but seeing the higher % of young women flying gives me hope!