Increasing Number of Women in India's Aerospace Sector
In the past decade, the country has seen a rise in the number of women who are part of the aerospace sector, with women working in positions of power in both military and civil organizations. The Indian Women Pilots Association, a forum for women in aviation, has been working towards increasing the participation of women in the sector and also helps those looking for guidance and financial help to become achievers in aviation and aerospace. Started in 1967 by Ms Chanda Budhabhatti (Chairperson and Founder President), Ms Rabia Futehally, Ms Mohini Shroff, Dr Sunila Bhajekar, Ms Mangala Joshi and Ms Kumudini Rawal formed the association, a not-for profit organization with its headquarters in Mumbai. The IWPA currently gives two awards annually to young budding girl aviators at 'Aviation Day', organized by the Aeronautical Society of India, Mumbai branch. An annual award to a professional woman achiever in aviation is also presented in the name of Dr Kalpana Chawla every year.
Ms Harpreet A De Singh, current President of the association, said that there were several hindrances that women faced while trying to enter the world of aviation. "There is a general lack of awareness and mind-block that only men can enter this field. As soon as a girl makes up her mind, there are financial issues," she said. As part of its efforts, the association visits schools and speaks to young budding students. "We reach out to them and mentor them. We have today engineers, astronauts, pilots and women in many other fields of aerospace. There is no job that a woman cannot do," Ms Singh said.
The IWPA stall at Aero India had on display the story of women in aviation. The Aero India also had a town hall event with the theme 'Women in Aerospace' and on February 23, 'Women's day' was also celebrated.
The town hall event, themed 'Women in Aviation' had Panelists which included Group Captain Shakti Sharma and Squadron Leader Khusboo Gupta representing the Indian Air Force, Captain Aprajeeta Sharma of the Indian Army, Lieutenant Commander Prerana Deosthalee of the Indian Navy, Deputy Commandant Nidhi Jaiswal of the Indian Coast Guard as well as Captain Harpreet A De Singh, Executive Director, Air India, Captain Kshamta Bajpai as well as Smt TK Anuradha of the Indian Space Research Organization and Dr Tessy Thomas of the Defence Research and Development Organization, Ms S Thenmozh of HAL, Dr M Sujata and Ms P Anuradha Reddy of CSIR-NAL and Ms Sreeja Nag, Senior Research Scientist at BAER Institute.
A special event highlighting the achievements of women in Indian aerospace industry was held as part of Aero India. Several women working in the aviation, science and research sectors were felicitated during the event for their contribution to the aerospace sector.
Study by International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISWAP) showed that while global airliners reflected gender disparity in the employment of women in aviation, India on contrast showed a brighter picture. As against 5.4percent women pilots employed by the global airliners, Indian aviation employed 12.4percent of women pilots in its aviation sector. The study also showed that percentage of women 'Captains' among global airliners remained only 1.55percent, in India the number reaches as far as 10.4percent.
In its 12th edition, the biennial air-show showcased women achievers in the aerospace sector, highlighting their contribution and achievements. Leading with the theme 'Saluting the Queens of the Skies', Chief Postmaster-General (Karnataka Circle) Charles Lobo released a commemorative stamp. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Lobo said that women serving in the field represented courage, valour and sacrifice. "Most importantly they serve as an inspiration to a large generation of young girls and students," he said.
Intake of women pilots by India is twice the global average