Han Siyuan is one of just 713 women in China who held a license to fly civilian aircraft at the end of 2017. This is a star comparison to 55,052 men who held a license.
China’s proportion of female pilots is one of the worlds lowest, and much of it is attributed to social perceptions and male-centric hiring practices by Chinese airlines.
As a result, China’s proportion of female pilots currently stands at 1.3 percent. Chinese airlines are struggling with an acute pilot shortage amid surging travel demand, and female pilots are hoping to draw attention to the gender imbalance.
Han Siyuan first decided to apply for a job as a pilot cadet in 2008, and she was up against 400 female classmates in China. The tests measure everything from their command of English to the length of their legs.
Han eventually became the only woman from her university that Shanghai-based Spring Airlines picked for training that year. Since then, she has worked her way up to captain for the Chinese budget carrier.
However, it hasn’t gotten much easier for the women who have come after her. Of Spring Airlines’ 800 pilots, only six are women.
To make up for the shortfall, Chinese carriers will need 128,000 new pilots over the next two decades. This has prompted airlines to aggressively hire foreign captains while forcing Chinese regulators to relax physical entry requirements for cadets.