Equality in the cockpit?
In 1934, American Helen Richey became the first female commercial pilot in the world.
Needless to say, she did not start a trend.
The BBC reports that, as of 2010, only 6.7 percent of US pilots are women. Other institutes estimate that only between 3 to 6 percent of the world’s pilots are women.
On the other side of that coin, nearly 80 percent of flight attendants are women. Sometimes, it all boils down to what we see. Gender stereotypes often stop women – and men – from pursuing careers they perceive as “boy jobs” or “women’s work.”
The Women of Aviation Worldwide Week back in March (see WVoN story), sponsored by the Women of Aviation Worldwide community, was designed to encourage women and girls to become involved in flight and discover a love of the craft.
The purpose was to show the world that women are perfectly capable of flying planes. (I’ve attempted to fly one myself; it’s challenging, but doable.)
Part of the reason the field is dominated by men is the intrinsic nature of the job – long hours, days and even weeks away from home, and little flexibility. It is not exactly family-friendly.
And in an environment that is filled with men, a woman might feel a little uncomfortable at the prospect of sitting through classes and meetings without the support of other women; that fear and resistance contributes to the cycle of this male-dominated career.
Establishing balance in any field where one gender is substantially more involved is, truthfully, intimidating. You have to be better than average to be taken seriously, and even better than that to inspire respect.
Most women don’t even consider aviation as a viable career unless they have been exposed to it in their own life, according to a CNN report.
“It just seems like the women, if they didn’t have it around them as a young child, then it’s not something they considered,” said Victoria Dunbar, a teacher in the aviation program at the Florida Institute of Technology.
“My experience is that female pilots are excellent. It’s not like there’s a particular skill or knowledge that guys are better at. I think a lot of women just don’t think about it … as a career field.”
China is preparing to make their own little piece of history right now by sending the first Chinese female astronaut into space.
The official media has been slightly hush-hush about it – perhaps in an attempt to wait out a successful launch – but internet chatter grew loud after the announcement was first made.
The feeling of pride is clear.
As with anything, if flying is your passion, do everything you can to make that dream possible. There are no real rules to life, so create the life you want.