Airline Companies have a clouded history when it comes to sex discrimination. Open any textbook on gender and law and you are sure to find cases like Wilson v. Southwest Airlines, Burwell v. E. Air Lines, Inc., or numerous others featuring airline companies at the heart of gendered legal issues. The gender composition of airline companies could be a contributing factor to the industry’s contentious relationship with sex. Only 34% of the airline industry workforce in the United States is female. Looking at the specific occupational breakdown within these companies, the gendered power structure of the industry becomes even more apparent: while 79% of all flight attendants are female, women make up only 4% of all pilots for airlines in America.
The higher you go (literally and figuratively), the fewer women you see in power. Women comprise only about 6% of all the executive positions at airline companies. As an industry predominantly made up of and controlled by males, issues generally thought of as “primarily female concerns”—like maternity leave, pregnancy-related accommodations, family leave, breastfeeding accommodations, etc.—can be forgotten or given lower priority. Further, the way airline employment policies are created may contribute to the problem.
Brooke L. Hauglid, Pioneering the Right to Breastfeed at 35,000 Feet: Workplace Accommodations for Lactating Employees in the Airline Industry, 83 J. Air L. & Com. 607 (2018)