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Women in aviation: Sophia James’ story

As part of International Women’s Day we’re highlighting the stories of women in aviation and looking at the challenges they face as the industry strives for greater diversity. Read on for their stories in their words:


BALPA National Officer


Her story in her own words: 

I am full of admiration for the women I’ve met in aviation. The resilience and strength they exhibit is inspiring. I have previously worked in universities, charities and other trade unions with a public sector focus and naturally, a more diverse workforce. Immediately noticeable is the number of meetings where pilots are being discussed and ‘he’ is automatically the chosen pronoun, or participants refer to the guys… and girls.

“Since joining BALPA I have never been in so many rooms with so many men.”

The reps, members and managers have largely been supportive, curious and welcoming of this hyper-political, energetic Woman of Colour who arrived in a walking boot following a sports injury!

There are fewer interactions with women in the industry, because there are still so few women in the piloting profession. It’s always incredibly heart-warming to meet with those joining the industry despite the financial and social barriers. I have heard stories ranging from microaggressions to more serious issues. Members tell me how people from their airlines crewing department have called their home, and when they answer in their female voice, the person at the other end has assumed they are not the pilot, but the pilot’s wife!

“…determined to push for change…”

So, it is clear there is work to be done for women in this industry, and at BALPA we are determined to push for change. From improving grassroots visibility of female pilots to pushing for better maternity pay, or challenging airlines to consider menopause friendly policies, BALPA is always looking at how to ensure women are not disadvantaged in the workplace. There is of course work to do with education, developing an understanding of inclusion by design and the genuine allyship which empowers and amplifies the voices of women.


This is the third in a series of articles we’re publishing as part of International Women’s Day, March 8th 2024. You can view the other stories from women in aviation via the links below.

Kate’s Story

Amy’s Story

Michelle’s Story