Women in aerospace

I recently read an article titled “Why don’t women run airlines?” I found the question interesting, because I have had some conversations about the number of women and especially in management positions within my company.

Surely there are a lot of issues and reasons behind (e.g. what is called “the glass ceiling”) that have been well-studied. When encountered with this question, I asked my senior peers within the department how many women were in their class at the university when studying aerospace engineering: the answer was one or none. That is the proportion of women that one could expect should be in the top management of the company now.

Luckily the trend now is changing, but still, in general, the aerospace sector is lacking women. I compiled some statistics:

  • Only 4% of flagship airlines had a woman as CEO (according to the study in the above-mentioned article).
  • 19,627 women worked for EADS (16.5%) at the end of 2009 (17% in the case of Spain; 13.6% in the case of Airbus).
  • 31.9% women out of the 39,469 students of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in the year 2004 (I found this information using the Wayback Machine as the university does not publish this anymore in its website).
    • The admissions of that year kept the same proportion, 32% women.
  • 25.8% women out of the 1,983 students of my engineering school that same year (Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Aeronáuticos, now EIAE).
    • The admissions of that year had a higher proportion, 31.7% women (something is changing).
  • 41 women out of 191 (21.5%) students graduated with me in November 2005.
    • The promotion of 2005, ideally should have started in September 2000. That year, there were admitted 117 women out of 368 students, or 31.8% (the year I started, 1999, the proportion was 25.2% women… though not published, I guess the share was lower in previous years).
    • The fact that women were 21.5% of graduates while being 25.8% of the population of the school may point at some of the other reasons, which I am not qualified to discuss.

Even if there was no discrimination, I believe it will take some years before 32% of EADS workforce and top management are women (~25 years? when the proportion of the students now in the university reaches all stages of the age pyramid of the company). I guess the same will apply for airlines.

I’m afraid it may never happen that 50% of the workforce in the company are women, probably not until 25 years later than we see such a proportion in the aerospace engineering schools… which 5 years ago was still 32%.

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