Commercial airline pilots sit at the apex of a long and challenging career trajectory demanding years of training. Like many other prestigious professions, it might come as no surprise that there's an invisible 'flight ceiling' keeping women out of the cockpit.
However, it may shock you to know that only five per cent of those in the cockpit are women.
Data from the national census revealed that New Zealand had just 120 female airline pilots.
This would make women with an air operating certificate more scarce than flightless kākāpō.
It seems appropriate on International Women's Day to take stock of representation in travel, both in terms of progress and the obstacles which stand in the way of female pilots pursuing a career in the skies.
In spite of women representing up to a third of trainee pilots and junior club pilots around the country, something is stopping women taking up careers in aviation.
Certainly long-haul routes are dominated by male pilots.
There's an idea that aviation is a career that's incompatible with a family life. With a decade of training before you earn your wings, some female pilots have the idea that there is a choice to be made between family life and a career flight.
"I think there's a misconception," says Penny Armstrong, a second officer for Air New Zealand.
"I was home a lot more at long haul than I would have been during any 9-5 job. You have quality time at home but you can't always pick when that is."
As a mother and a pilot rated for A320s, 777s and 727s, her experience is that flying international routes have provided her with a lot more flexibility than regional airlines could.
Like many female pilots, Penny said it was a family member that sparked her love of flying.
"When I was 9 my auntie was a flight attendant for Qantas, she flew me out unaccompanied to visit her in Sydney to visit her. I just love that flight."
The chance to visit the flight team while in action was her first introduction to the career.
"They took me in the cockpit - which is such a shame we can't do that for kids now."
It was an experience that in 2012 saw her take up her first airline job, flying 727s across the Tasman for Qantas.
First Officer, Aileen Mackie-Hyndman - also has strong memories of her first introduction to flying, watching planes arrive in Nelson.
"I did a couple of trial flights in my early teens and knew that was what I wanted to do."
However, she'll be the first to admit that in her 17 years of flying, little has changed in terms of representation. Air New Zealand's long-haul in particular has a slightly lower per centage of female pilots compared to the industry standard.
"Childcare is an ongoing concern," she'll admit. Balancing rosters with her husband Mat, another A320 pilot, has shown that it hasn't always been easy with both parents working as pilots.
"Diversity is slowly increasing with better representation and flexible conditions are becoming a little more common (such as part-time rosters) in some airlines," says Aileen.
She was only one of three women in her commercial class of 30. Now one of only two to still be flying.
There is an average eight-year training period before a novice pilot lands their first airline job. Given the lengthy apprenticeship, it is a career that few can afford to pursue. This has led to wider diversity and equality issues, as well as a growing skills shortage for pilots.
Even with the uncertainty of Covid there is predicted to be a shortage of 34,000 to 50,000 commercial airline pilots by 2025.
Surely addressing the disastrous drop-out rate for women would be the beginning of plugging the looming pilot shortage?
It's not just as a new parent that flying mums are challenged but also during pregnancy . In New Zealand the CAA stipulates that pregnant women cannot fly during their first or third trimester. There are many challenges that women starting a career in aviation may never have considered.
Fortunately in 2016 Penny was one of a small group of female pilots at Air New Zealand which started the advocacy group WING (Women Inspiring the Next Generation).
Meeting one of New Zealand's 120 female pilots is a great way to help women to navigate a career in the skies and hopefully inspire more. Initiatives such as bringing children to work and school visits have helped expose more kids to experiences like the ones which convinced Aileen and Penny to become pilots.
"I think Covid could have put a lot of people off going into the industry," says Penny.
"But, actually it's a great time to start." The next class of airline pilots are going to be more diverse and in demand than ever.