Female Pilots: Career Experiences and Recruitment Discourses

Zheng, Jihao
Harris, Candice
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

Female pilots are under-represented in the commercial aviation industry. This study aims to explore recruitment and career issues for female pilots by using the three-dimensional critical discourse analytical framework of Fairclough (1989, 1995).

There are two phases to this research. In the first phase, the entry requirements for pilots in the commercial aviation industry are investigated to determine which factors are enablers and/or obstacles for women becoming pilots. In the second part of the study, the experiences of female pilots as expressed on pilot forums will be explored to understand the career issues women are facing as pilots. Nine airlines and three online forums are included in the research, the topics of which relate to female pilots and their career obstacles.

Analysis relating to the first dimension of Fairclough?s CDA framework showed that problems such as work-life imbalance, pregnancy and childcare, piloting as a high-risk job, the lack of affirmative action, the lack of early career preparation, occupational stress, and male pilots? discrimination can discourage female pilots in their career progression.The second dimension of Fairclough?s CDA framework illustrated that the development of the Internet has helped to broaden the pool of pilot job applicants. The wide application of online discussion forums also provides a platform for female pilots and their families to share their working experience and personal perceptions.

Analysis of the wider social context using Fairclough?s third CDA dimension revealed how patriarchal values in the commercial aviation industry are still alive today. The findings of this study indicate that the commercial aviation industry remains a fairly masculine environment overall, and such patriarchal power continues to influence the number of female pilots who enter and advance in the aviation industry.

Underrepresentation of female pilots , Netnography , Patriarchy , Critical Discourse Analysis
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