The FAA wants the airline industry to fight decades of sexism on airplanes by removing words like ‘Cockpit,’ ‘Airman,’ and ‘Unmanned’

Pilots in cockpit
Airline pilots in an Airbus cockpit.

  • An FAA committee released a report recommending airlines shift to gender neutral language.
  • The group recommended airlines replace words like “Airman” with “Aviator” to promote inclusivity.
  • Women have little representation in the industry. 94% of pilots and flight engineers are white men.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The airline industry may soon move toward promoting more inclusive language in an effort to increase diversity.

On Wednesday, a Federal Aviation Administration advisory committee released a report recommending that airlines shift toward more gender neutral language by removing words like “Airman” and “Cockpit” from their lexicon.

The FAA group recommended airlines replace “airman” with “aviator” and “cockpit” with “flight deck.” It also said “unmanned aerial system” should become “unscrewed aerial system” or “drone system,” to name a few recommendations.

“Research shows that the utilization of general-neutral language can lead to a more inclusive environment that draws more people to the industry and helps keep them there,” the committee said in its report.

The move would mirror changes that other organizations have made to be more inclusive toward women. In 2006, NASA decided that all terminology used in the space program would be gender neutral.

The recommendation from the FAA’s drone advisory committee comes as a result of a push from the Biden administration for more equity in aviation – an industry that has been primarily dominated by white men. While many women serve as flight attendants, there are very few female or minority pilots and flight engineers. To date, about 94% of airline pilots and flight engineers are white men, according to data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By bringing more female representation into the industry, airlines could help combat a shortage of pilots that threatens to halt a post pandemic boom in travel. Though, gender neutral terminology will not target the lack of minority representation in the industry.

The new terminology is one step toward addressing decades of sexism in the aviation industry

In the past, the industry has benefited from the sexualization of women. In the 1950s through 1960s, flight attendants – called stewardesses at the time – were hired based on looks and were required to be unmarried, Axios reports. Most flight attendants at the time were forced to retire by the age of 35, according to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

Some airlines became known for their stewardesses and even used them to advertise in the 60s. Braniff International Airways’ slogan was “Does your wife know you’re flying with us?” While Pan Am asked: “How do you like your stewardesses?”

Pan Am
A Pan American (Pan Am) airhostess serving champagne in the first class cabin of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.

By the 70s, many airlines had flight attendants donning hot pants and go-go boots. National Airlines spent $9.5 million on a 1971 campaign that read “I’m Cheryl. Fly Me.” The company later expanded the ads to include “I’m going to fly you as you’ve never been flown before” and claimed it saw a 23% jump in bookings.

In the 80s, the industry began to gradually shift away from stringent physical requirements for flight attendants, as well as the sexual advertising schemes. Though, the Association of Flight Attendants notes women in the industry have continued to struggle with representation, as well as pay – the median annual wage for pilots is nearly double a flight attendant’s salary, according to federal data.

In the past year, flight attendants have been forced to grapple with another set of issues. In May, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant allegedly lost two teeth after a passenger assaulted her.

That month, the FAA said it was seeing a spike of unruly and aggressive behavior on airlines, citing moments when passengers hit, yelled, and shoved flight attendants. Last week, several flight attendants told Insider’s Allana Akhtar that they have faced “unprecedented” instances of violence and aggression in-air.

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33-year low in female labor participation rate requires new childcare and paid-leave policies, JPMorgan says

Woman working in cafe
A woman works on a laptop at a restaurant’s outdoor seating as temperatures reached close to 70 degrees on March 11, 2021 in New York City.

  • Federal family-leave and childcare support policies can help close gender gaps, JPMorgan said.
  • Female labor participation sits at 33-year lows and well below mens’ level due to COVID-19 fallout.
  • Gender-responsive policies can counter the disproportionate hit women faced during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Full economic recovery in the US might not be enough to close gender gaps exacerbated by the pandemic, JPMorgan researchers said.

The coronavirus and its economic fallout disproportionately slammed American women, with female-dominated sectors like hospitality and education hit the hardest by lockdowns. The greater share of domestic work that women perform in American society also prompted many to leave work and focus on caretaking. Where men made up the bulk of job losses seen during the financial crisis, the current recession has seen job losses land more equally.

Women aren’t just losing or leaving their jobs, either; they’re exiting the labor force entirely. The female labor participation rate, while up from its pandemic lows, still sits at its lowest level in 33 years. More than 2.3 million women have left the US labor force since the pandemic began, versus nearly 1.8 million men exiting the workforce.

Reviving the broader economy should pull some women back into the labor force, the team led by Joyce Chang said in a note to clients, adding Congress can and should do more to close the gap. Federal paid-leave policies for mothers can alleviate the burdens of balancing work with early child care, as can federally guaranteed family leave. Public child care and education programs can also incentivize women to stay employed, according to the team.

The nation’s gender pay gap held at roughly 18% for the past decade, and that spread could widen by another five percentage points if the pandemic’s effects aren’t reversed, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research paper cited by JPMorgan. Recessions historically fuel a 2-point narrowing of the wage gap.

Closing the gender wage gap is good for growth, nevermind society

Promoting workplace equality also has a tangible effect on economic growth. Narrowing the labor-participation gap between men and women by just 25% could lift US gross domestic product by 2%, according to the International Labor Organization. Fully closing the gap would boost GDP by 5%, the International Monetary Fund said.

“Continued focus on gender-responsive policies is required to counter the disproportionate burden women face in the current crisis – and more importantly, to prevent the economic damage from outlasting the virus itself,” JPMorgan’s researchers said.

Some steps have already been taken to help working women. Democrats’ latest stimulus plan includes a child-tax-credit program that will give families with children under the age of 5 up to $3,600 per child over the course of 2021. Those with children aged 6 to 17 can receive up to $3,000 per child.

The package also includes $40 billion for child-care assistance. The average US household spends nearly 23% of its income on child-care costs, according to JPMorgan. The stimulus’ inclusion of a child tax credit and direct relief for care providers helps lower the burden for mothers hoping to keep their jobs while raising children.

Erasing such inequality stands to build a more robust economy after the pandemic, the researchers said. The coronavirus crisis has prompted discussions around family support and flexible work arrangements “that could yield steps forward in the future,” they added.

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