International Transport

Women's rights

A large proportion of high-profile positions in international transportation companies, such as pilots but also management personnel, are still mainly male dominated. Discrimination of women in the international transportation industry is common.

It is mostly the airline industry which is accused of gender discrimination. In airline companies, women dominate sales, ticketing, and flight attendant positions, while the majority of airline CEOs, managers, and pilots are men. According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, only 5.5% of all pilots were women in 2018, and about 1.5 % captains. There have been reports of airlines discriminating against pregnant women and promoting or degrading women cabin staff based on their looks or size.

Recent reports have also highlighted that airlines have one of the most significant gender pay gaps in the tourism industry, sometimes up to 71,8% between the hourly wages of men and women. Gender pay gaps are also common in other international transportation industries.

Women in jobs which are traditionally male connoted, such as pilots or bus drivers, may face discrimination or not be taken seriously.

Following accusations of discrimination by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Qatar Airways has eased its policy of restricting female cabin crew from getting married or becoming pregnant. The ILO accused the airline for its policy of firing women staff if they married within their first five years of employment or became pregnant. Women’s contracts included the following clause: “The company reserves the right to automatically terminate your contract as a flying cabin crew member should you become pregnant.” It also required staff to obtain prior permission of the company should they wish to get married. The airline eased its policies after the accusations. Under new contracts, pregnant women have the option of temporarily working in ground jobs and can marry after notifying the company.

Women under-represented on the flight deck

According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, out of 160,000 pilots, only 8500 or 5,5% were women, 2400 of were captains (see link below).

Women discriminated on the basis of their size and appearance at Aeroflot

Two Aeroflot flight attendants accused their employer of gender discrimination before a Moscow court. They claimed to have been discriminated and degraded on the basis of their size. Aeroflot representatives previously acknowledged that such a policy was in place. “Aeroflot is a premium airline and part of the reason people pay for tickets is the appearance of its employees,” said Pavel Danilin, a member of the airline’s public council. Nikita Krichevsky, another member of Aeroflot’s public council, said the penalties should not be seen as a salary docking but as an incentive to lose weight (see Guardian article below). The case of gender discrimination was rejected at first instance in local courts. The women took their case to a second instance and a hearing at the national court in Moscow. The court partially agreed with the women’s accusations and ordered Aeroflot to compensate them for lost earnings.

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Policy and process

  • Include statement of commitment to gender equality / equal opportunities in hiring and equal salaries in the Supplier Code of Conduct to be signed by airlines and bus companies (business partners).

Sector collaboration

  • Take up the issues related to women’s rights in the transportation sector in sector initiatives and business associations.
  • Consider making joint statements outlining the expectations towards transportation service providers related to gender equality.

Grievance mechanism

  • Add a clause on effective grievance mechanisms to be installed for their staff in contracts with international transport service providers.
  • Consider collaborating with the industry to develop joint grievance mechanism.

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.