Zoya Sapra Aggarwal, Example of Conviction for Equality

Captain Zoya Aggarwal, who is commander of AI 176, dreamed of aviation since she was 11 years old. In a recent interview, she mentioned how she would look at the stars all night and be fascinated by the trail that flying planes left.

The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía Pizano

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When Zoya turned 12, she already owned a telescope. However, when she talked to her parents about wanting to follow a career in aviation, her mother cried and her entire family, who was conservative told her that was impossible. Zoya was not willing to give up easily, and finally, her parents supported her in following her dream. Nowadays, Zoya is a mother of two children, a flying trajectory of more than 8,000 hours, and she is also a symbol of Generation Equality.

Generation Equality is a campaign promoted by UN Women, that brings together the next generation of women’s rights activists along with gender equality advocates and people who were involved in the launching of the Beijing Platform for Action, more than 20 years ago. The Campaign aims for demanding equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women and girls, healthcare services that fit their needs, and equal involvement in political life and decisión-making in all aspects of life. 

In her own words, Captain Argawal, forms part of the Generation Equality team, because she believes that the opportunity for equality starts at the time of our births. She also mentions that we are born equal, and we all deserve equal opportunities and rights. In a more personal way, she mentioned that during her childhood her parents expected her to get married and have children, but her dream was different, she dreamed of flying planes. Since then, she strongly believes that all girls need allies to help them accomplish their dreams. 


It is worth highlighting that in the early 90s, it was not common at all for women to become a pilot. Among other reasons, Aggarwal’s parents didn’t want her to pursue a career in aviation since they had never heard of women being pilots before. By the time she started working for Air India, in 2004, she was the 5th female pilot the airline had ever hired.  According to Zoya, the aviation industry was different by the time she started her career. She claims that Airlines didn’t want to extend maternity leaves to the women that worked for them and were afraid females would abandon their work when they gave birth. Nowadays, the global average of female pilots is 5.4%, and for India, it is 12.4%. 

The Generation Equality Campaign, mentions three ways in which parents can support girls when it comes to achieving their dreams. First of all, they mention that girls should be encouraged to believe in themselves. They also advise parents to allow girls to dream and to follow their dreams with courage. They finally mention that fathers should act as role models to their sons, treating women with respect and love. 

In a recent interview, ms Aggarwal claimed that nothing had come easy to her, but whenever she felt stuck, she thought of eight-year-old Zoya’s dream, who dared to follow her heart. Nowadays, Zoya is a commercial pilot and commander with Air India, as well as a Ted speaker and an inspiration for young girls on a global scale!