Gender equality in aviation

In this article, I’d like to talk about words that constitute the role of a woman in aviation.

We all got used to women in aviation but there are surely some negative stereotypes often repeated in words we all use. Sometimes we do it unconsciously and I want you to know which commonly used words can be interpreted as inappropriate or even offensive. It’s a good moment for your self-assessment of your own personal thoughts. I’d like you to reflect upon your personal dictionary in terms of unconscious bias, harmful gender stereotypes and prejudice. Before I reach the core with some real-life examples, I’d like to begin with the essentials like denotations, connotations, unconscious bias and gender bias. Sounds scary but just keep on reading and I’ll explain in the simplest possible way.

What Are Denotation and Connotation?

The denotation of a word is its precise and literal meaning; when you say ‘blue’ you mean a combination of red and yellow color. Nothing more. 

However, some words bear connotations, which are extra associations that go beyond the word’s basic meaning. The phrase ‘I feel blue’ doesn’t relate directly to color but to our mental state of feeling depressed. How does it imply aviation reality? The perception of gender in aviation includes words that bear a lot of negative connotations. They’re popular and some speakers aren’t aware of the negative background behind them. Let’s take a look at the mentioned idea of unconscious bias with the most infamous examples – a stewardess or aviatrix.

What Are Unconscious Bias and Gender Bias?

Before I discuss the words ‘stewardess’ or ‘aviatrix’ let me tell you briefly about the ideas of unconscious bias and gender bias.

When you take a look at Cambridge Online Dictionary the word “bias”, here unconscious bias, is defined as “the action of supporting or opposing a particular person or thing in an unfair way, because of allowing personal opinions to influence your judgment”. Therefore, unconscious bias a person may not be aware of and their statements can be influenced by their long-life perception of reality, social norms and beliefs influence gender neutrality.

When we meet someone, we’re likely to make judgments about them. Age, accent, weight, gender, race can raise our unconscious opinions like:

“Too old”

“Too young”




“Foreign accent”

So unconscious biases are our opinions that are deeply rooted in our perception of the role of a woman and a man.

Gender bias is a bias that is limited to gender. Unfortunately, gender bias drives inequalities.

Is the word „stewardess” considered politically correct?

No, it isn’t. First of all, a stewardess is a gender-specific term used for a young, attractive and single woman who was predominantly hired to perform the flight personnel’s duties. In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s men constituted the vast majority of passengers and a professional flight attendant was often regarded as an eye candy who serves drinks on board. As a matter of fact, that kind of stereotype diminishes the importance of the flying personnel’s acquired skills and the center of attention is put on the physical attractiveness instead of a crucial role of providing instant and professional help in case of any unexpected turns of events. It is the cabin crew’s role to ensure the security, effectiveness of actions, and the ability to work under strictly limited time in unpredictable conditions. Therefore, a stewardess isn’t the best choice just like a steward. Eliminate this word and easily replace it with ‘flight attendant’ and ‘cabin crew’. They’re gender-neutral and they don’t have any negative connotations.

„I’m here to save, not to serve.” Hence, if you want to put an emphasis on the demanding side of the job, use ‘a flight attendant’ or ‘a cabin crew’ instead. They’re gender-neutral and they underline the significance of that profession. It’s not only about being politically correct but also show respect to your colleagues.

Stewardess is politically incorrect word

Is The Word „Aviatrix” Politically Correct?

No, it isn’t. According to the same rule, all the -trix suffixes are gender-specific. Use ‘aviator’ for a man and a woman.

How To Stay Gender-neutral When You Speak?

Gender-neutral Dictionary In The Aviation World

Try to stay neutral when it comes to generalizations. You can easily replace some all men-related stereotypes and talk about people. It’s so simple.

Replace a ‘man-sized job’ with a ‘demanding’ task or a ‘big job’,

‘Forefathers’ of aviation can become ‘ancestors’,

‘Businessmen’ are now ‘Business people’,

‘Chairman’ is ‘Head’,

‘Spokesman’ is ‘Spokesperson’,

‘Fireman’ is ‘Fireperson’,

‘Policeman’ is ‘Police officer’,

‘Repairman’ is ‘Technician’,

‘Salesman’ is ‘Sales representative’ or ‘Sales person’ or ‘Sales clerk’,

‘Watchman’ is ‘Security guard’,

‘Workman’ is ‘Worker’,

‘Cleaning lady’ is ‘Cleaner’.

Get Rid of Feminine Suffixes

“The addition of the feminine suffixes in job titles, such as – ess, -ette, and –trix, reinforces the notion that generic nouns are male, while female nouns are something less, or at least different. Generic nouns should be used for both women and men”. (

‘Aviatrix’ should be replaced with an ‘Aviator’,

‘Manageress’ should become a ‘Manager’,

‘Stewardess’ should become ‘Flight attendant’ or ‘Cabin crew’,

‘Waitress’ should be ‘Server’.

Should I Care About Political Correctness Words During An ICAO Examination?

In my opinion, you should be conscious of words that bear negative cultural connotations, hence I wrote this article. During an ICAO examination, you are marked separately on vocabulary. I honestly advise avoiding words that have negative connotations. Exam conditions are strictly formal and the more neutral you are, the better for your overall performance.

Do you know other examples of politically incorrect words used in aviation reality? If you do, please write a comment below.

Cabin crew