Where Are The Women in Aviation?

by Rachel Weir

When you think of a ‘pilot’, what picture pops into your head?  They’re easily recognizable in their pilot uniform with their crisp white shirt with epaulets & stripes on their shoulders. You probably think male right?   I think about this question every time I fly into an airport and walk through the passenger terminal in MY pilot uniform. I recognize the look.  It transmits skepticism that I could actually be in command of any flying machine. There’s a common misconception that all aviators are older males. I have to ask myself, “why?”  While it is true that it is still a male dominated field, more women are becoming involved in all aspects of aviation.  Realistically, however, men still vastly outnumber women.

Why are there so few females flying the friendly skies?   Is the job not appealing? Is flight training too expensive? Or is it something they never thought possible because of public perceptions?  Perhaps it’s a combination of all these factors. Flight training can cost up to $100,000 and it takes years to get enough experience to be considered for hire.  Though it’s expensive and training is lengthy, it is so worth it. Getting paid to travel the world is an appealing perk but that perk comes with a price.  The hours are not cookie-cutter 9-5 hours and can turn into days or possibly even weeks away from home.  This is as difficult for men as it would be for women but mothers who travel extensively for their jobs carry a greater stigma in society.  Another possible hindrance might be that men may be more mechanically inclined by nature (and some young women may be intimidated) to learn they must understand Advanced Aircraft Systems and Aerodynamics.  Women pilots and maybe women in any male dominated field may feel they have to be better than their male counterparts to prove they can excel or that they even deserve a shot.  It means a woman has to fight harder, train harder, and have a thicker skin. This too, may be a reason some women give this job so little consideration.

In addition to ‘piloting’, women can be involved in other aspects of aviation; as mechanics, dispatchers, and even owners of aviation companies.  LR Services, (being one of three woman owned charter/management companies in the Country), also employs several female pilots, a female mechanic, and a female dispatcher.

So, how do we encourage young women to consider aviation as a viable option?
It’s important we introduce aviation options to young girls early.  Introducing them to flight simulations, job shadowing, air shows, and females in aviation history could open up possibilities they’d never thought possible. Then, that skepticism I’ve experienced would be a thing of the past.

Two organizations aimed at attracting females to aviation are listed below:

  • Ninety-Nines Inc. (Founded Nov 2, 1929)
    The name is based on the initial 99 charter members.
  • Women in Aviation International (WAI)

Either of these can be Googled for more information.

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