Kazakhstan’s Aviation Industry Ushers in Era of Gender Equality

ASTANA – The aviation industry has been historically a male-dominated realm, both in Central Asia and on a global scale. This March, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) published an article on a significant uptick in female enrollment in aviation specialties over the past three years in Kazakhstan. 

Diana Ibrayeva. Photo credit: tengrinews.kz.

“It is noteworthy that the feminization of civil aviation is observed in Kazakhstan, where women still encounter prejudices and stereotypes, but demonstrate outstanding achievements in aviation,” reads the publication, written by Juldyz Chalimbetova, the head of corporate communications at the Almaty-based Civil Aviation Academy. 

Ardana Botay. Photo credit travelpress.com.

The proportion of female students in aviation disciplines has risen from 19% in 2021 to 25% in 2023. There has also been a surge in the number of girls aspiring to become pilots, with the percentage rising from 10% to 15% over the same period, according to the academy. Next year, the higher education institution will celebrate its 30th anniversary. Overall, it has trained over 7,500 female and male aviation professionals. 

Bayan Zhurtybayeva. Photo credit: unitingaviation.com.

One of the recent notable developments in strengthening women’s leadership in aviation was Saltanat Tompiyeva’s appointment as the chair of the Civil Aviation Committee of the Kazakh Transport Ministry. She will bring 26 years of experience to her new managing role. Tompiyeva started her career path as a regular specialist in the civil aviation industry.  

Azhar Nesipbayeva and Yekaterina Sverchkova. Photo credit: esquire.kz.

Prominent figures like Meruyert Zholdybayeva, serving as the director-general of the Aktau Airport, and Bayan Zhurtybayeva, a board member and the development director of the Civil Aviation Academy, highlight the growing representation of women in leadership positions in aviation. On top of that, out of the 13 executives in Kazakhstan’s Civil Aviation Administration, four are women. 

Remarkable professional results of female graduates of the Civil Aviation Academy continue to break entrenched gender-based stereotypes. 

Saltanat Tompiyeva. Photo credit: unitingaviation.com.

For example, Diana Ibrayeva, a chief pilot in Kazakhstan’s SCAT Airlines, continues to manage the Boeing 737 aircraft. Senior Lieutenant Ardana Botay, a crew commander of the Su-30SM multifunctional fighter, made her first independent flight in August 2021. Akerke Shopataeva, who is a mother of four children, pilots helicopters at the KazAviaSpas airlines under the Emergency Committee of the Kazakh Ministry of Internal Affairs. Her duties include evacuating people from emergency sites, transporting the injured, and extinguishing fires.

Another historic event in female empowerment was the creation of the first-ever all-female crew. The Qazaq Air team consists of a chief pilot Yekaterina Sverchkova, a co-pilot Azhar Nesipbayeva, and two female flight attendants. 

Last year, Almaty held the inaugural ICAO Regional Symposium to address global cooperation in international civil aviation. It was the first time for Central Asia to host such  a large-scale event in the global aviation industry. 

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