Women in Saudi Arabia still can’t drive a car. But last month, three female pilots from Royal Brunei Airlines landed a plane in the Saudi city of Jeddah. The historic flight was the airline’s first all-female pilot crew.

Back in 2012, one of the three pilots, Captain Sharifa Czarena Surainy, told the Brunei Times that she hoped to set an example to other young girls in her country: “Being a pilot, people normally see it as a male-dominant occupation. As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It's really showing the younger generation, the girls especially, that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it."

Royal Brunei Airlines' first all-female crew. Source: Instagram

Captain Czarena is not wrong: the top of the airline industry is still a man’s world. According to an Easyjet report published for this year’s International Women’s Day, you’d have to fly 20 flights before hearing a female pilot’s voice over the tannoy. Research from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots revealed that just 3% of pilots are women.

Source: Easyjet

Many airlines are making efforts to get more women into the cockpit. Budget airline Easyjet, for example, has committed to doubling its percentage of female pilots by 2030. “We want to encourage more women to join and stay in this interesting, highly skilled and well-rewarded profession,” the company’s CEO, Carolyn McCall, announced last year.

While last month was the first time Royal Brunei Airlines had an all-female pilot crew, the company has also been attempting to get more women into the profession. The airline is actively targeting women for its latest airline engineering programme.

Brunei still has some way to go. The country finished 88th out of 145 in the Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Report. It has moved up 10 places since the 2014 edition, but it still ranks 0 in terms of women’s political empowerment, with no women in ministerial positions or years with a female head of state.

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