One pilot says she finds it detrimental to progress when female passengers give her over-enthusia praise because she is a woman

When Ruth Smith goes to work, she is one of just 5 per cent, give or take, of global employees in h role who are women

Smith is a pilot with British Airways (BA) and flies commercial Boeing 777 planes

While women are heavily involved in the aviation industry in jobs like cabin crew and air traffic control, they have historically been sidelined when it comes to flying or fixing planes

This is despite the fact that these jobs are some of the few in the world without a gender pay gap

For International Women’s Day, Euronews Travel talked to three pilots and an engineer about what it’s like to buck the trend

‘I was told there weren’t any female pilots’

Smith’s inspiration to become a pilot began with her dad, a captain with BA. “Since a very young age I was privileged to be able to go away on work trips with him,” she says

Knowing him and his female colleagues inspired both Smith and her sister to follow a similar career path

But entrenched gender conventions proved an almost immediate stumbling block

“One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome was dealing with stereotyping from career advisors,” she recalls. “I was even told there weren’t any female pilots!”

Smith believes flying planes is still a male-dominated job because it is not highlighted as a career option early on for women

“It’s a career where you have to show interest, aptitude and skills that put you above the rest when applying for sponsorships,” she says. Some airlines have sponsorships programmes where they cover some or all of a cadet’s training fees

“If you don’t believe you can do it, you might not have targeted your CV to make you stand out and it's tough competition out there”

She also thinks many people wrongly believe it’s not a career you can manage with a family

“I have a whole community of British Airways colleagues who have proved this to be incorrect,” she says

‘It is different connecting with like-minded women in the industry’

Like Smith, Katherine Moloney found the early stages of her career a challenge. She began by training for a private pilot helicopter license in 2018 and then a fixed wing license in 2022

“During my training, I did not have contact with any female instructors, or other female student pilots,” she says

“This is not to detract from the great male instructors I had, but it is different connecting with like-minded women in the industry”