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ERAU releases study on gender, racial biasERAU releases study on gender, racial bias

A new study released by researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University examined potential bias faced by aspiring female and minority commercial and student pilots in the United States.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

In an experiment, participants were shown pictures of current female and male commercial pilots of various races, and were asked to rate their opinions on the quality of the pilot—professionalism, flight safety, smoothness of flight, and confidence in the pilot. Participants then viewed photos of student pilots and rated their likeliness to succeed in flight training. In both studies, results indicated that consumers and other pilots favored white males in all conditions, while females and minorities were viewed less favorably.

ERAU Professor of Human Factors Stephen Rice said, “The aviation industry needs to be aware that this bias exists because they need to make sure their hiring process is fair to women and minorities. They need to do whatever it takes to help women and minorities overcome these societal problems.”

Nadine Ragbir, the lead author of the paper and an Embry-Riddle Ph.D. student, said, “Being in a school centered around aviation, we could not help but ask ourselves if these biases exist in airline passengers and pilots alike.” The research paper pointed out that bias could deprive the industry of the best job candidates.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic and hiring at major airlines being at its lowest level since 2013, pilot demand is very strong for freight carriers and Part 135 charter operators, thus creating jobs. Additionally, such sectors as helicopter, general aviation, cargo, flight training, and corporate aviation remain strong; even some regional airlines anticipate hiring this year, according to experts who monitor the aviation job market.

AOPA Communications staff

AOPA Communications Staff are communicators who specialize in making aerospace, aviation and advocacy information relatable for all.
Topics: Career, People, Aviation Education Programs

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