I decided to take the ‘home-isolation time’ in order to be a little more productive and finally work on my blog again…
So, I just recently published a video on how to become a private pilot sharing my personal journey hoping to inspire others to pursue their dreams and goals in aviation. Sidenote: If you haven’t watched the video make sure to check it out on YouTube!
Although I received really positive overall feedback my video also led several pilots from the male community to question my shoutout to encourage more women to enter this field. So I decided to elaborate a little on this topic and share my motivation behind inspiring more women to join me on this exciting journey in aviation.
Being not only a woman but also an immigrant in this country with a mixed cultural background I am part of two underrepresented minority groups within the industry so the topic of diversity obviously highly affects me making me very passionate about engaging more women into STEM-related aviation career fields.
First of all, I would like to highlight some of the current numbers just to give you a better understanding of what I actually mean when I talk about underrepresented minority groups. With just over 5% of international airline pilots being female (ISWAP, 2020) and women making up less than 2.5 % of licensed aircraft mechanics and 5% of aviation maintenance/avionics technicians (WAI, 2019) there is an undeniable gender imbalance within STEM-related aviation career fields. Although there have been many efforts to increase the number of women in aviation, it seems that very few of them seem to opt for ‘non-traditional’ career fields. But why is that?
Let me start by telling you a little bit about my own story in aviation…
When I was about 20 years old, I went for an interview with one of the major European air carriers to become a pilot. That day I was the only woman in the room. Needless to say, I wasn’t selected. So instead, I decided to become a flight attendant; a job that seems to be much more popular amongst women and an environment that made me feel more welcomed and inclusive. However, just like any of the other men out there I had a passion so strong, I continued to pursue my dream and went for one interview after another until I finally decided to start taking flight lessons on my own. It turned out that I was the first female student my instructor ever taught how to fly an airplane. This was in 2019 (!).
At the same time I also enrolled in college to study aviation management, but soon realized that my actual interest really was in aeronautical science, which lead me to change paths at the beginning of my program. Unsurprisingly, in almost all of my classes at Aeronautical University, I was the only woman out there. Fast forward 10 years, a scientific degree in aeronautics, about 100 flight hours and a career as a flight attendant later, I found myself at yet another airline interview, however this time here in America and this time, I succeeded. Why? Because I finally believed that I would myself. It is hard to hold on to something and chase it when everything around you seems to be working against you. In a world that is dominated by men without any role models or mentors to support you. It is important to mention that unlike many others pursuing this career as a result of following a family members footsteps, I actually come from a family with absolutely no affiliation to the aviation industry. So my passion was sparked from something deep inside me and relied on my very own motivation. It is equally necessary to also mention that throughout all those years of failing and picking myself up again I received some of the most amazing support from the aviation community itself, that became my second family over time and really helped me push through. I met some of the most fascinating men and women inspiring me to follow my dreams and never give up and so I know how important it is to have role models in life and someone to push you when things get tough.
Many pedagogic studies actually prove the importance of role models from early childhood, which may be one of the main reasons for women still representing a minority in STEM careers. The historical perception of women in scientific fields may cause many female students to be more skeptical towards their own abilities resulting in hesitation and the idea that women are simply lacking interest in STEM-related career fields. However, historical data and stories of female aviators from the past and present are proof that there have always been many female pilots and women aspiring aeronautics since the early days of aviation with their intentions and attempts facing many barriers throughout history and oftentimes being rejected due to their lack of power within society. With only about 20 % of female students majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, I am very proud of being part of this revolution in taking a step towards gender equality and inclusion. Nevertheless, and considering the many challenges that the global aviation industry is already facing not only in regards to its current challenges but also with increasing globalization and hence diversification, we still have a long way to go towards achieving this goal. Although there are many laws protecting minorities and global companies and organizations are making many efforts to integrate more women there are still some major challenges to overcome.
As a result, the shortage of women cannot simply be explained by the dismissal of opportunities, as this issue is far more complex.
The fact that the industry still seems to be dominated by white men may cause some of the issues, but not all. Instead, it seems that there are some long-standing role perceptions, which were built into the system over time causing interference with current diversity programs and a major effect on a woman’s ability to progress. Gender-related bias, stigma, and misogyny seem to be so deeply en-rooted in our societal standards affecting not only our work environment but also our general belief system that it will be a lengthy process to reach equality.
Therefore, it is essential to stop making cosmetic fixes (oh the irony!) and advertise diversity programs and instead take vital actions towards inclusion, which also involves management positions. In the future, it will be more important to concentrate on education, early exposure, mentorship and role models along with a much-needed shift in our general societal perceptions and standards that are more applicable to the 21st Century. By not only integrating science and mathematics from early on but also making those fields more appealing for young girls as well as to generate a more diverse picture of childhood role models there will be a much greater interest to implement this into future studies and all the way into a woman’s career. Ultimately, the only way to overcome current barriers for minority groups as well as to involve more women in aviation is by adapting to a new set of global values while moving away from outdated perceptions and ideologies that hinder the progress of diversity.
While I continue to pursue my career in aviation, I highly encourage everyone to support me on this mission in motivating more women to enter STEM-related career fields in aviation and also invite you to do some further research on this topic, as this is really important: