A new study from researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University shows that aspiring female and minority commercial pilots face bias from not only consumers, but also other pilots.
The research, published in Technology in Society, showed that consumers and other pilots respond more favorably to white male pilots over female and minority pilots.
“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,” said Stephen Rice, a professor of Human Factors. “They need to do whatever it takes to help women and minorities overcome these societal problems.”
Embry-Riddle Ph.D. student Nadine Ragbir, the lead author of the paper, said the most valuable part of the research was demonstrating that implicit, or unconscious, biases exist.
“While some people know they are being biased or prejudiced against an individual, others may not even know they feel that way,” said Ragbir. “Just being able to make people aware that there are unconscious biases that could influence their thoughts and actions is a step forward.”
The experiment involved showing photographs of female and male pilots of various races to participants, then asking them to rate how well they thought the pilots would perform. Respondents gave higher ratings to white male pilots.
Ragbir, who developed a childhood interest in aviation when her paratrooper uncle taught her about different kinds of aircraft, earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Human Factors at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus. She said the topic of the research came about through collaboration, while the authors discussed a type of software tool used in behavioral research that can reveal implicit bias based on the participants’ response times. Basically, response times are longer when implicit bias is involved, because participants are reluctant to blatantly admit to biased responses and tend to take more time to consider, the researchers explained.
“Being in a school centered around aviation, we could not help but ask ourselves if these biases exist in airline passengers and pilots alike,”
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