Attracting more women into aviation needs to start at a young age

Employment & Skills | Manufacturing | Reports | Transport & Distribution

Together with her husband and co-founder Adam Twidell, Carol Cork saw a gap in the market for a fast and competitive booking service for private jets.

In 2008, they launched PrivateFly – an innovative business model in the traditional, private jet broking sector – comparing live pricing and availability through bespoke and unique technology, combined with a team of aviation experts.

Carol and Adam had a passion and belief in their idea, digging deep (both emotionally and financially); selling their family home to provide the seed funding required to launch the ‘first to market’ business.

Over the 11 years since, Carol has remained dedicated to the business, and has played a pivotal role in its development and growth as Chief Marketing Officer – taking the business from disruptive startup, through to its sale to Directional Aviation in September 2018 – one of the world’s biggest private aviation groups.

Today PrivateFly is a global brand in on-demand private jet charter and employs a team of over 60 people in Europe and the US.

Carol (aged 46) lives in St Albans in Hertfordshire with Adam and their two teenage children, close to PrivateFly’s European head office.

Carol comments: “At this stage in my career, I am becoming more and more driven by the need to encourage young women into our industry. In business aviation (and aviation as a whole) there remains a very big gender gap, at all levels and in all types of role – but most particularly in the boardroom and the cockpit.

“With pilot shortages one of the industry’s biggest challenges over the next few decades, there is a very real opportunity to plug that gap with more female pilots, who currently account for just 5 – 10% of crews. There’s some great work taking place in the airline sector here, with some signing up for targets and quotas – which if well-managed shouldn’t be seen as a risk to standards.

“In non-pilot roles too, there are not enough females. At PrivateFly we have a more diverse workforce than many other companies in our sector, with 33% of our team female – including a number of senior managers.

“While there are organisations committed to advancing women in business aviation specifically, our part of the industry has even greater challenges than the airline sector – with less awareness of career opportunities overall, regardless of gender.

“It’s not so much about discrimination – I have rarely felt any barriers from inside the industry – but a failure to attract females in the first place. And this takes time and needs to start from a young age, to get girls aspiring to flying careers, just as boys have always traditionally done. Aviation is a career chosen out of a long-held passion and we know how important role models are in sparking that from childhood – from family members through to industry figureheads.

“At PrivateFly we send our team out regularly to local schools, youth groups and to universities, to talk about what business aviation can offer. We’ve had a number of successful female internships, some of which have turned into permanent roles. This is something I am committed to doing more of. And now as part of Directional Aviation, we can offer a pipeline of career opportunities across the aviation spectrum, both in Europe and internationally.

“Marketing is the challenge here. Our industry needs to position itself more effectively, to get girls and women to seriously consider it as a career option, and to see and feel that it’s a career for them. This visibility is essential if we are to see the gender gap reducing in the years ahead”.

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