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Revealed: the growing role of women in the UAE’s aviation sector

How the UAE is bucking Middle East by employing more women as pilots, engineers and air traffic controllers

The UAE is bucking a regional trend by employing more women in its aviation industry, a senior official has said.

Compared to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the UAE has more women pilots, captains, aircraft engineers, mechanics, aircraft maintenance and air traffic controllers, state news agency WAM reported.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and chief executive of Emirates Group, said: “Women have played a key role in the success and development of the aviation industry in the UAE.

“With the region experiencing high passenger growth, and with more airlines, aircraft and flights in service, as well as more routes being served than ever before, there has never been a better time for women to build a successful career in the aviation industry than now.”

Thirteen of the 15 countries with the lowest rates of women participating in their labour force are in the MENA region, WAM said.

Emirates currently employs nearly 27,000 women, making up 42 percent of the group’s workforce, including women pilots who include the youngest Emirati female pilot operating the world’s biggest aircraft, A380. Over 60 of more than 4,000 pilots employed by Emirates are females. Etihad Airways employs over 2,850 Emirati women covering various roles, including 50 female pilots and also the first Emirati woman registered as a specialist in aviation medicine. Over 50 percent of the airline’s 13,000 strong workforce are women and the airline is keen to narrow the gender gap further.

Two years ago, the UAE also became the first country in the world to launch an all-woman operated airline services company.

The figures come ahead of the third Women in Aviation General Assembly which will be held on May 9 on the sidelines of The Airport Show.

Jameela Al Muheiri, the first-ever woman Minister of State for Public Education and speaker at the event said: “The UAE has been a leader in women empowerment and providing employment opportunities for women, especially in aviation, a key driver of socio-economic growth.

“Civil Aviation has long been a male-dominated arena, but women now have a significant presence. To flourish and thrive, the aviation industry needs to have women on board everywhere.”

Mervat Sultan, one of the first Arab women to obtain a flight dispatcher’s licence and a co-founder and the president of the Middle East chapter of Women in Aviation International, added: “Most roles in aviation are still dominated by men around the world. We are focusing on spreading awareness about aviation as a career of choice in the region and also helping aviation companies that are keen on hiring women.” Estimates from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots show that women pilots account for only three percent of the total 130,000 pilots in the world. It has been reported that only 12 out of the 248 airlines operating worldwide are currently led by women.

The Saudi Air Navigation Services Company has also set in motion the process to employ women as air traffic controllers for the first time. The national carrier, Saudia, is also looking into sending Saudi women on scholarships abroad to become pilots.



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