Posted on September 24, 2014

Airlines’ Flight Decks Lack Diversity

Michael L. Zirulnik, The Hill, September 22, 2014

“The chief pilot asked me to hire a black female pilot so we could check off a ‘diversity’ box on a reporting form so we could keep our government contracts,” a human resources director of a mid-sized air cargo transport company told me last year at a pilot recruiting event. “Once I did hire that woman, the chief pilot came back to me and said to never hire another one [black female pilot] again. Things are gonna stay the way they’ve always been around here,” she said.

That same day, a captain at a large regional airline said his company probably isn’t going to hire black pilots anymore because “they drop out of training or quit after a year here.”


The flight deck of U.S. airlines remains a predominantly white male landscape. {snip}

Today, 4.1 percent of airline transport pilots (ATPs) are women, 2.7 percent are black or African-American, 2.5 percent are Asian and 5 percent are Hispanic or Latino.

An analysis of segregation in U.S. industry hiring practices using data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for the years 1966 to 2003 that accounted for race, ethnicity and sex, shows that workplace desegregation stalled at 1980 levels. The failure has in part contributed to the monolithic demography of U.S. ATPs and a culture of whiteness and masculinity in the flight deck.

While the airline industry is not alone in its discriminatory hiring practices, it is perhaps emblematic of what is taking place across the nation. Hiring and employment regulations are being adhered to on paper and quietly subverted in practice. It is time to address the policy failures of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. {snip}