Ailsa McKay Travel Grant recipient Faye McCarthy tells us about how receiving the grant supported her research:

McCarthy F., Budd, L.C.S, and Ison, S.G. “If you think of a Pilot you wouldn’t think of a woman would you?”: Challenging the Male Norm of the Pilot Profession.

 Presented at the 96th Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting (TRB) in Washington D.C.

I was delighted to hear the result of my application to the Ailsa McKay travel grant and would like to thank the panel. This paper was presented in the Women’s Issues in Transportation Committee Meeting at The Transportation Research Board (TRB) 96th Annual Meeting. The research forms part of wider research for my PhD at Loughborough University entitled; The Experiences of Ab Initio Pilots: Shaping their Gender and Professional Identities.

As demand for commercial aviation increases worldwide, there is an anticipated shortage of commercial airline pilots and the aviation industry is actively developing initiatives to increase women’s participation in piloting (just 6% of commercial airline pilots are women worldwide). Piloting is still considered to be a gender-specific profession whose gendered culture is continually reproduced and reinforced through the perpetuation of masculine beliefs and values of what constitutes “A Pilot”. The paper explored the challenges facing UK aviation industry personnel in attempting to increase the number of women pilots, the research identifies a number of obstacles that are frustrating their attempts to challenge the ‘Male Norm’ of airline pilots. By assessing the difficulties and challenges current initiatives are trying to overcome, this research will shed light on existing initiatives in order to improve and develop future initiatives. These include focusing on who can challenge the deeply engrained pilot stereotype and how this can be done considering the archaic culture of piloting. In light of this, the recommendations will be applicable globally, particularly for western cultures.

The presentation received great feedback, comments and questions. It also provoked a discussion about how the leaders of gender-specific initiatives pitch their ideas to men in particular and if they had received any negative feedback highlighting the potential of positive discrimination. In addition, members of the committee highlighted the need to increase women’s participation in transport professions and the importance of further research on women’s employment in transport professions. By attending the conference I was able to network with leading academics and attend events including a WTC (Women’s Transportation Seminar) networking evening. Again, I would like to thank the FWSA for giving me the opportunity to attend this conference; I gained valuable feedback for my PhD research.