Women have been involved in aviation from the beginnings of both lighter-than air travel and as airplanes, helicopters and space travel were developed. Women pilots were also called “aviatrices”. Women have been flying powered aircraft since 1908; prior to 1970, however, most were restricted to working privately or in support roles in the aviation industry. Aviation also allowed women to “travel alone on unprecedented journeys”. Women who have been successful in various aviation fields have served as mentors to younger women, helping them along in their careers.
Within the first two decades of powered flight, female pilots were breaking speed, endurance and altitude records. They were competing and winning against the men in air races, and women on every continent except Antarctica had begun to fly, perform in aerial shows, parachute, and even transport passengers. During World War II, women from every continent helped with war efforts and though mostly restricted from military flight many of the female pilots flew in auxiliary services. In the 1950s and 1960s, women were primarily restricted to serving in support fields such as flight simulation training, air traffic control, and as flight attendants. Since the 1970s, women have been allowed to participate in military service in most countries.
Women’s participation in the field of aviation has increased over the years. The formation of the Ninety-Nines in 1929 was the first organization for women pilots. Their members have included almost every female pilot of noting accomplishments. Formed after the first official women-only air race in the United States during the 1929 National Air Races. 99 women out of the 117 holding pilot licenses became Founding members of the Ninety-Nines, named after the number of members. Within the United States, during 1930, there were around 200 women pilots but in five years there were more than 700. Women of Aviation Worldwide Week has reported that after 1980, the increase in gender parity for women pilots in the United States has been stagnant. Women flying commercial airlines in India make up 20.6% of all pilots. The global number of women airline pilots is 5%. Today, around the world women are interested in aviation. While the overall number of female pilots in aviation has increased, the percentage stays the same.