There is more to aviation than just a pilot flying an airplane. Being that aviation is a global industry, responsible for moving humanity as well as products around the world, there is the consent search for competent people for its labor force. The billion dollar transportation industry requires manufacturing, production, maintenance and many more support functions to keep the “wheels turning”. Aviation careers have traditionally been held by men. It is within the current changes in social reforms that there is now the opportunity for females to have successful careers within this industry. The focus of this research is to explore methods that aviation businesses could implement in an effort to increase their percentage of female employees thus increasing the benefits and successes that a diverse workforce provides.
Keywords: Aviation industry, career education, female recruitment, labor force, training and development, education and business partnerships, mentoring, internships, field trips, job shadowing, use of social media, smart phone applications, applying emerging technology, game development
Aviation is a trillion dollar industry that is predicted to grow at a rate of 4.5 % over the next 20 years. According to the International Air Transport Association annual publication “Aviation Benefits Beyond Borders; in 2016, “every day 104,000 flights will take off and 9.8 million passengers travel; 62.7 million jobs are supported by aviation worldwide, aviation represents $2.7 trillion in global economic impact (including direct, indirect, induced and tourism catalytic), 3.5% of the global GDP is supported by aviation.”(IATA, 2016).
It takes many people of different skill levels to provide the workforce necessary to facilitate all the actions required to make this industry successful. In the past, men received training in the military, creating the aviation labor force to be mainly male dominated. It was during World War II that American men were shipped overseas to fight, which created labor shortages in the factories producing things that were required to fight the war, including weapons, ammunition, airplanes and tanks. Women began to fill the void in the labor force and became the replacement workers.
One of these ladies was Rosalind P. Walter, who worked in a factory that made F4U Corsair fighter airplanes. She was the inspiration for Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb to write the song “Rosie the Riveter” in 1942. With its popularity, it started the trend of all the women working in the factories to be called “Rosie the Riveter”. The name was such a cultural icon that the Saturday Evening Post featured Normal Rockwell’s painting on the cover of the May 29, 1943 issue (Kopp, 2007).
After the war, when the men began to return, women were expected to leave these non-traditional jobs and return to being home makers or employed in more traditional female careers. Yet, there were those ladies who chose to stay in the workforce; it was the first time most of them had ever been given the chance or opportunity to be employed outside the home earning a wage and some wanted to continue. There were some women who had lost their husbands in the war that needed to stay in the workforce to provide for their families (Kopp, 2007).
The women who did decide to stay in the aviation industry had to endure hard times as they were stereotyped as the flight attendant or ticketing agent in the feminine careers and were considered more masculine if they worked in the mechanical aspects such as maintenance or manufacturing. These women were stereotyped and not accepted since they were competing with men for jobs. Of course there were also the accepted practices of sexual harassment and unequal pay that would not be addressed until later in the twentieth century. As a result many women chose to leave the workforce except for the socially acceptable jobs but those opportunities were rare and came with many different issues that we will not directly address.
As social culture and technology have changed, the aviation industry has begun to change its views on who would be desirable as employees in the workforce. The skills that women can provide have been proven to be important to the team approach in business process. As it stands women make up over half of the national workforce in the United States yet in the aviation industry the total percentage of females employed could not be found through the research conducted. There are only about 5.5 % of pilots that are females and 2.5% of women who are licensed aircraft mechanics ((Clark, Newcomer & Jones, 2016).
The industry is reported to keep growing by 4.5 % each year (Clark, Newcomer & Jones, 2016). The majority of the existing aviation employees are beginning to reach retirement age; so there is once again the industry is facing a lack of skilled workers that will need to be replaced if it is to be successful. This presents the opportunity to educate and train the next generation of aviation’s workforce no matter their gender.
The industry cannot rely on the previous methods of recruitment or outdated tools. The perceptions of what aviation jobs consist of and are available in the future along with the education and soft skills required for those jobs needs to be changed. This paper will examine different ways in which the aviation industry can implement the recruitment of females.
There are now different forms of media, additional positive female role models, integration of new technology and experimental learning concepts to attract females to enter rewarding careers the aviation industry has to offer. If the industry’s businesses implement new ideas the resulting outcome in the male to female percentages of employees could be more balanced as the number of women should increase the industry’s diversity and profitability.
How can the aviation industry increase the percentage of female employees? What would encourage young females to enter and establish careers which would significantly increase the industry’s future workforce diversity? In an effort to increase the industry’s diversity levels and to create a more gender balanced labor force there needs to be additional ways to expose, educate and inspire young girls to consider a career in the many different job opportunities available. There are many sectors of aviation including governmental, commercial, private business and cargo transport.
Aviation and aerospace careers such as business management, engineering, sales, customer relations, aircraft manufacturing, human relations, procurement, logistics, ground transportation and finance are not well known as being a pilot.
For the entirety of this paper the aviation and aerospace industry shall be referred to as the aviation industry. Aviation and aerospace defines all manner of vehicles and operations of transportation that leave the earth’s surface and moves within the atmosphere and outer space surrounding the earth. A combination of mixed-methods research within academic journals from the ESBCO and ERIC databases provided the references and contributed to the knowledge gained and presented within this paper. Research was conducted and revealed the suggestion of increasing a presence in media and social media platforms featuring females would increase the communication of opportunities to females. The building of partnerships were found to have a positive aspect with the commitment and participation of aviation businesses, employees and secondary, college and technical school staff.
The goal of this exploratory research was to discover why more females do not enter careers in the aviation industry while addressing these issues, proposing new and effective solutions for companies and students. Investing in different methods would transfer knowledge and inspire young females to consider a career, continue on to receive training, and ultimately become employed. All of the suggestion contained herein would help the industry bring about a more balanced percentage of females working within the industry.
Upon examining existing research on women employed in the aviation industry there was information regard past participation in being a pilot and the gradual increase of females employed in the industry since the 1960’s. This increase has been attributed to the change in social and culturally accepted behaviors among men and women during the past several decades. Although it has been gradual it has not been significate until the last couple of years. Research did not show a complete updated number of females actually working in the industry. There was research about women within the aviation maintenance sector that found that there are only 2.2% are aircraft mechanics and service technicians and stated reasons why females do not choose a career within the different sectors of aviation (Clark, Newcomer, & Jones, 2016).
Understanding the reasons why more females have not and are not choosing careers in this industry is necessary in identifying probable methods that could be used that would positively encourage and motivate females. Students must be exposed to the information in a way they can understand opportunities and are in able to learn the skills required for a satisfying career whether it is in transition from secondary education, college or technical schools as well as entering military service. The solution is found in providing methods to the industry to solve the lack of knowledge and opportunities for females that is the research addresses.
In researching aviation careers, an academic paper provided a survey that attempted to find out if mentoring was working in an aviation technical .The results were positive in nature at improving participation and gaining knowledge about aviation for students already enrolled in a technical program (Bates & O’Brian, 2013). They did study different ages but there were no studies that targeted females directly. Another study was conducted on why students of a particular aviation technical school chose to attend that particular college but since the population of the school was composed of 98% male students the results did not provide any usable data to understand why females did or did not enter aviation school (Steckel, Lercel & Matsuo, 2010).
It was found that one method that could help contribute to increases female interest and knowledge about aviation careers would be to use social media in marketing and communicating aviation career opportunities, featuring positive role models, and interesting stories about females who are currently working in the industry. By forming partnerships between the aviation industry’s businesses and academia and increase in what the schools provide would be in line with what the businesses needs in a competent skilled work force.
Deciding what one wants to be as an adult starts at a young age. Children role play as firemen, doctors and every type of adult career they are exposed to in their daily lives. As a child grows, they may change what they want to be several times as they enter different stages of development. The environment in which they are exposed could be a positive or negative influence (Gaudet & Savoie, 2007). Even what a child watches on television could impact their interest of “what they want to be we they grow up”. Adults are their role models and as such they have a responsibility to provide positive examples of work ethic and career opportunities. For example, if a child does not like the sight of blood would it be considered to encourage or expect that child to be a doctor or nurse?
Both men and women need to change the way they think about what a person is supposed to be or not be, their own constraints and the environment in which they can be successful. As adults, people need to create environments in which children feel comfortable learning and exploring different subjects and determining what they are interested in becoming as an adult. As a child matures and starts to make decisions regarding their own future, it is up to the adults; whether a parent or teacher, to help guide and support the individual into career options that otherwise may not have been considered by the guiding adult as a career.
“Many factors are involved in career choice. The environment, the influences of parents, teachers and peers, sex-role socialization and
heredity combine to shape attitudes toward certain occupational choices. The reality of those choices is then tested by experience.” (Ciccocioppo, Stewin, Madill, Montgomerie, Tovell, Armour & Fitzsimmons, p.26 (2002).
As females begin to discover careers that they want to explore they find that they are guided to the more traditional female careers like nursing, teaching or food service. Guidance counselors are very likely to discourage females from pursing STEM subjects in school as result of gender bias. Among peer pressure they may be thinking they want to get married and start a family and not to work at all. Females are also are influenced by their families to seek employment as soon as they reach a certain age to help financially, which can limit their future education. Socioeconomic situations can play a part in why a female never sees an airport or is able to fly in a plane. They know they exist but the local fast food store is where they see a job opportunity (Ciccocioppo, Stewin, Madill, Montgomerie, Tovell, Armour & Fitzsimmons, 2002).
There is the lack of female role models in non- traditional jobs that female students can actually see and talk to seems to be the missing. There seems to be the perception that females that enter a male–dominated industry will be more likely to take a masculine stance, thus being stereotyped so females avoid those careers. (Clark, Newcomer, & Jones, 2012)
When people are investigating a career in aviation it may consists of becoming a pilot. There are females that are flying planes but only about 3.5 % of pilots are actually women (Clark, Newcomer, & Jones, 2012). What inspires those who choose to fly? Is it taking a commercial flight, seeing a movie, or could have been a career counselor encouraging a good math student to go into the military for training? These are all ways that aviation careers could start but imaginary is powerful so media is important to use to get the message to females.
Career counselors, guidance counselors and parents should help support an exercise in contacting higher education or aviation businesses for more information. It would benefit the students for teachers to have an assignment where the students contacts three businesses for more information on careers or for students to conduct an interview with an employee in a job they are interested in. There should also be career fairs that businesses participate in order to expose the students to different job opportunities. (Kerr, & Robinson Kurpius, 2004)
Before a teacher can teach they need to be taught. The industry sectors, no matter if they are private, commercial, or military; need to change the perception of the work in aviation by marketing and communicating the skills needed by the industry. Not just education but preparation for the workplace soft skills such as communication, Interactional, problem solving, initiative and efficiency. (Bates, & O’Brian, 2013)
Upon a student entering the education system, teachers should encourage all students to enroll in STEM classes no matter their gender. Teachers need to experiment with new concepts and away from the traditional teaching methods. Students are more advanced and need for learning to be more than just listening to theory in a classroom or working problems on a piece of paper. Hands-on experiences show that failing at the first attempt is only giving them an opportunity to know what not to do the second time.
Using new technology such as computers, video productions and virtual reality can enhance the visual aspect of teaching. Hands on learning provides an environment for each student to experience what concepts are and are actually comprised of and application of their new found knowledge. Students would be making more of an effort and stay focused to learn what is needed to enter the aviation industry. Providing a safe and supportive environment will help foster interest. Not only should females be interested but enjoy participating in the learning process, meeting the challenge and earning satisfaction that success brings.
Educators most find the value in planning and providing the opportunity for their students to participate in an onsite field trip to an aviation industry business facility or museum that features the aviation industry. Field trips can be used as a tool to help students deduce if they are interested in learning more about a particular industry.
“The teacher’s role in pre-planning, implementation, and reflection often dictates the impact that the field trip will have on students.” (Behrendt, & Franklin, p. 235, 2013)
Field trips create an authentic learning opportunity, interacting in a setting, displays, and exhibits to gain an experiential connection to the ideas, concepts and subject matter which cannot be duplicated in the classroom. The experience creates a personal interaction, relevant meaning, deeper learning and interest development in the student (Behrendt, & Franklin, p. 235, 2013).
Students who are taken on field trips use their observation skills by using all their senses. They are empowered to interact with each other, ask questions and discuss different past experiences, new ideas and interests. Students may be able to form a comradery with the other students in attendance and form relationships that may not have developed otherwise.
It is vital that the teacher visit the venue and prepare the field trip with the intent on teaching about the concepts associated with the venue and not just having the kids have playtime outside the classroom. Students need to be made aware of what to expect and what is expected of them in order to participate. Teacher need to engage the students and point out interesting fact or objects that is related to their lessons in class. If the teacher just walks behind the student it could prevent the most positive outcome desired.
Once the field trip has occurred there needs to be follow up discussion that engages the students to expression their thoughts and ideas in regard to what they saw, smelled, touched and heard. This will make the learning experience more engrained in their minds. There may even be a form that they are given so they can give the teacher feedback on their experience. This will help the teach make improvements or changes to the next class (Behrendt, & Franklin, 2013).
“Students may acquire short term learning, but without reinforcement or debriefing, the learning or interest development may only be temporary.” (Behrendt, & Franklin, p. 235, 2013)
Programs of job shadowing and internships
Job shadowing gives the student opportunities to investigate their job choices by spending time with employees and experiencing the culture of a workplace. Teachers and business work together to develop a plan of worksite experience. This is typically a three to six hours period, which a student spends time one-on-one with an employee observing the daily activities and asking questions about the job and industry. The student would be required to complete written assignments before, during, and after the job shadow to help them understand and reflect on what they experience. When it is appropriate the student could perform hands-on tasks to encourage their abilities and experiences where students can relate what is being taught in the class room in a practical way. This can give a student the context for understanding the connection between their studies and the work involved in the employee’s job. (B. M., & Northwest Regional Educational Lab., P. O. 1993)
Businesses established temporary positions for students to give potential employees the opportunity to work for experience as well as wages at a reduction of cost to the employer. Internships foster the learning experience for the student, but also develops high-potential applicants. This could develop into a systematic approach to recruiting employees. (Bandow, 2015)
“…internships are usually successful regardless of student outcomes because at a minimum the internship may help the student determine what they don’t want to do, particularly if the student is not clear about interests or goals. For students that have a clear vision of what they want to do, the internship can provide a high impact learning experience and meaningful work.” (Bandow, p.1, 2015)
Providing these types of programs that can evaluate internships within the intension of hiring the student once they complete their education and giving them the work experience that would be able to reduce the business’s training cost in the future. The program would also be beneficial to improve the learning experience for the student, but develop high-potential applicants and develop a systematic approach to recruiting, retaining, and developing high-performance employees as part of a strategic approach to manage human resources.
Women employed in the industry have a responsibility to help the next generation of females to become aware of the industry. Once the girls are aware and have an interest in exploring the different jobs available, there must be a point of contact for them to reach out to for more information. Businesses should support and reward existing employees for participating in networking organizations with an emphasis on female membership while encouraging programs of internships and job shadowing for young females.
It is also the responsibility of people who are actively or retired from the aviation industry to seek way to reach out and inspire those who are interested in learning more about the different jobs that are available. They should also stand for encouragement, continued education, and enjoy sharing their knowledge with the next generation of females who want a career in the aviation industry.
Aviation Industry’s Role
Businesses involved in the industry must make a commitment to changing the public’s perceptions by investing in marketing in new technology and the ways in which we receive information that are commonplace in society presently and in the future. The goal is to reach a new audience of young females who use smart phones and check social media sites for their information. The earlier girls are exposed to the aviation career opportunities and positive role models the more likely they are to envision themselves actually performing the job themselves.
Images and stories of movies like “Top Gun” and “Sully” can influence the public’s view of what is considered to be the desirable careers in the aviation industry. Yet there are many different jobs including engineering, business management, production, finance, logistics, sales, customer support and security are important jobs of the industry. The directors and movie companies need to find stories that showcase the abilities of women and provide positive images of what the industry actually does. Where are the images of women becoming astronauts, scientist and Chief Executive of Operations, like Dr. Deborah Barnhart of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center?
In December 2017, a move called “Hidden Figures” was released that tells the story of how three African American females helped make the NASA mission Friendship 7 possible. This movie presents female role models performing duties in different jobs during the birth of the American space program. The aviation industry needs more of these types of movies to inspire females and show role models that there is the opportunity to become what they want to be with determination and persistence to achieve their final goals. Although it is a historical movie that depicts a different society than what is socially acceptable now; it does show the struggles of females in the past. Viewing the movie should not deter motivation for females but encourage them that it is a different time and there have been positive changes made for the following generations of females.
Using social media
Businesses need to Invest in creating a platform for sharing knowledge of different careers available within the industry. If the industry is to fill all the positions that the future holds for aviation and aerospace they need to show the next generation what jobs are available and how to attain them. The idea to is to promote and market women in different roles of sales people, the technology trainer that provides software training to a department, the Director of Finance and what aspects of her job uses analytical skills. Students do not read books or magazines for their information as much as in the past. It is with the dramatic use of technology that they rely on search engines like Google or Bing to take them to a website or see posts on Facebook, they follow people and businesses on Twitter or Snap Chat. They are now living in the age of technology with social media on smart phones and tablets consuming their time.
The proposal would be for businesses to use social media featuring women highlighting different non-traditional jobs in the aviation industry that they are pursuing. Females want to know that there are other females in positions that are of interest to them. Role models could post different aspects of what they studied and why they wanted their job. Post could include how they got their start, what they like about their jobs, describing what a typical day is like for them. This would open the door for them to share information on a more personal level and engage the audience. The options are unending, even providing an opportunity to the end user to ask them questions during a “podcast” that could be viewed during a class. These are tools in today’s market that need to be utilized by the industry to focus their recruiting efforts for females.
Development of video game or smart phone application
“Video games this appear to be the fastest growing and most exciting category of mass media for the coming decade” (Marchand, Hennig-Thurau, p.141, 2013)
The many uses of new computer technology would include a proposal to design a video game or smart phone application that would be engaging to females featuring role models for participants to download or upload depending on the platform used to research and accumulate knowledge individually or with others as at team. First there would need to be the understanding of the technology of building the game or app. This could be an interaction with a technical department or college. The schools could be recruited to assist with development while teaching programing at no or low cost to the business.
Ideas for the mapping and rewards within the game would be influenced by people in the industry, who have first-hand knowledge of job descriptions, preferable professionals in the human resources department. Then input from different people with the information and access regarding the processes and should reveal all the different aspects of manufacturing, production steps, logistics, technical services, maintenance, air traffic control, business management; security all of which provide services or products to the different sectors of the industry.
There would be so many ways in informing the user about the business, supply chains, travel opportunities, skill development. They would be having fun within a virtual reality creating an excitement and motivation to develop a plan to achieve their goals in reality. Different avatars and games that would be downloadable for iphone or android systems in search of the dream job, how much they could earn, and what they actually need to accomplish it in real life. There are many scenarios that would need to be mapped out. For instance, follow a part of a plane or helicopter from design, resourcing the raw materials to production, through procurement process all the way to installation and finally the payment process.
The industry must realize the importance of the emerging technology available and the market usage while investing in making the fact that females work in the industry and enjoy it and can have a wonderful career if they chose.
Partnerships between business and academia
Business must invest in educating and communicating with the education system along with teachers to form a partnership in order to facilitate trainings and prepare the interested students for their work force. Partnerships are a process that has value to both parties. “The overall perception of businesses involved in this partnership is very positive” (Lee) These partnerships must come together and develop a rationale that defines the goals of the partnership. This rationale while help direct both parties motives and expectations for the development of each parties long term goals. Research shows that partnerships are more successful when there are dedicated staff members to facilitate the daily aspect between the educational and business benefits, networks and employees. (Lee, Hope, & Abdulghani, 2016)
It is the commitment from businesses to express to the educators what skills are needed for that business. Educators must also understand how to teach the skills in a way in which the student comprehends and applies the knowledge for the partnership to be successful and complete the desired outcome. Teachers need to be able to identify a student’s passion, improve their judgment, lift their confidence, expand their competence and clarify their purpose.
The need to align with education programs with the training of required skills for future jobs is critical. The skills that are desired the most are actually interpersonal “soft skills” that are often done at the expense of each business once an employee is hired. This type of training has been one of the cost reducing measures so businesses are looking for potential employees who have previous experience and ability to identify the importance of these skills in the workplace. “Some even suggest that interpersonal competences may be as important as general mental ability or task expertise” (Bedwell, p.171, 2013)
The education system and teachers need to provide opportunities for students to experience the dynamics of collaboration and communication by way of team projects. Students need instruction on proper execution and understanding of relevant issues within the noted processes. This will give the students a foundation of useful skills to use within situations that could be damaging without prior experiences. These are the same principles that are used in businesses on a daily basis.
“…providing students with authentic life and business skills not only ensures a stronger work force but also provides enterprising attitudes and skills. Bringing the business and education sectors together enables students to learn how to take charge of themselves, be autonomous and resourceful. Businesses enabling students to learn in an authentic context support the development of skills, aspirations and attitudes needed to succeed in life after school. Where or not these student get jobs in their organization is immaterial in many cases, the partnership experiences help develop an employable workforce“ (Lee, Hope, & Abdulghani, p. 44, 2016).
There are so many questions as to why there are not more women with jobs in the aviation industry. Presently there seems to be a lack of knowledge of the opportunities available. Encouragement and support both socially and financially was found to be contributing factors as well. The socioeconomic environment in which female students are in, along with risk factors such as low self- esteem, unsafe behaviors and poor family support.
With the implementation of the methods and suggestions recommended there should be an increase in female applicants for position in aviation industry’s labor force. Demand of the industry’s services in the future and the commitment of businesses to invest in education, training and development that will ultimately be the deciding factor for the opportunity for females to enter a career in the present aviation industry and in the future.
Research shown here predicts the need for more employees in the aviation and aerospace industry. There may be factors that would lead to a decrease but at this time, they are not accounted for. Since there are many jobs opportunities within the different sectors of the industry it would benefit the industry’s overall diversity to market all the different career opportunities and available training to young females while not focusing on one in particular. It is the lack of knowledge of what the industry consist of that limit females from entering the industry. It is important that businesses reach out and market with technology to provide to the next generation of females information and when that generation shares its experiences with the following one that lack of knowledge will decrease even more; increase the number of females in the industry.
When aviation businesses and academia form partnerships and share information regarding requirements for competent students to become employees; be a continuous symbolic relationship of workforce development that includes females can be established. Another way for this partnership to increase female participation is by marketing and exposing positive role models from within the employees already working and succeeding in careers. Businesses can sponsor organizations that promote women networking together to build strong relationships between employees in the industry. This is already being accomplished in the Women of Aviation International and the Association of Women in Aviation Maintenance. Encouraging female employees to get involved in a personal way by sharing their own experiences and providing encouragement and inspiration to others can make a difference to both the employee and the student.
Business need to provide females a safe place to work, value their skills sets and input, offer continuous training and support in subjects related to their careers. It is during the change from Industrial revolution to the now present technical revolution that businesses need to consider flexible schedules and working from home, reducing travel time; to retain employee who are more likely to require different schedules performing their duties in a more efficient way.
By asking and addressing what practices and benefits are important to females in order to increase retention percentages also has human resource managers investigating and implementing such options as flexible scheduling, on-site child care and working from home. The industry must provide guidance and support for existing employees to have the option change into different aspects of the industry by offering additional training opportunities without punishment or removal. Present employees find that they are satisfied being in the same position for 20 years like the previous generations of aviation workers did and were expected to do. Rarely is an employee at the same company for an extend amount of time. Times have changed and so has the employee loyalties. This is one aspect of the aviation industry that could prove to be a retention incentive over other industries. The more knowledge a person has the more beneficial they are to the company. This issue would require more research but could be helpful in the recruitment of females.
As discussed, changing the ways in which the industry communicates to females is beginning to and should continue to make a difference in their interest and consideration in aviation industry careers. Time would tell if the implementation of these suggestions would provide the female work force the industry will need and benefit from in the future. Increasing the gender imbalance in the aviation industry will be adding to its’ own diversity, improving its working conditions, processes, operations and customer relations ultimately its profitability and success.
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