LONDON – One of the things that the aviation industry has been working on over the last few years has been women’s representation in the industry.
Whilst major strides have been accomplished at the moment, there is still plenty to do, as explained in my interviews with Lucy Isabel (LI) (@LucyIsabel33) and Daisy Bing (DB) (@daisybing7), who are aspiring Pilots.
JF: Lucy and Daisy, thank you for speaking to Airways about this crucial topic in the sector. First question, why do you think there aren’t that many women in aviation compared to males?
LI: The stigma around the career, most books and films show male Pilots and it is indirectly telling children and younger girls that it’s a ‘man’s career’.
DB: It’s not shown as an accessible career to women, with it being so male-dominated; little women role models in the career. Skillset is often shown as being good for males. The stigma around male Pilots and female cabin crew is another issue.
JF: How do you feel that issue can be fixed?
LI: By ensuring gender diversity is shown in all aspects of life RE books, films, TV programmes and introducing female role models in STEM related careers.
DB: More female role models and showing young girls that the career is accessible for them, too.
JF: Describe your journey into becoming a Pilot so far.
LI: Very slow. I’ve always been interested in aviation but through high school was put off by bullying due to having a more ‘unusual’ and geeky hobby of planespotting.
I’ve always felt like the odd one out. So I’m working towards my PPL very slowly with the help of Air League scholarships and support from the BWPA online.
I have completed six hours so far, five of which were from a scholarship. Hoping to get my PPL within two years, then hour build whilst in a full-time job, and then hopefully go on to a modular course at FTE Jerez.
Money is a big problem for me, so I’m trying to work through it slowly and with the help of scholarships and bursaries.
DB: I started at age 16 – went solo at 16 and finally got my PPL this year after struggling financially (I got a scholarship to finish my PPL from the BWPA). Now, I’m working on a night rating and IMC rating.
I will then go on to hour building for commercial training. People often didn’t believe me when I told them I was learning to fly – even now people often find it hard to believe that I can fly.
JF: What advice do you have for other women that are wanting to do the same thing but are reluctant to do so?
LI: Someone will always have something negative to say to you that will put you down, but keep going and ignore them, find a community like Twitter which will welcome you and support you.
Find people to talk to who are interested in aviation because they will push you and put you in contact with people who can give you guidance.
DB: Just go for it! There are so many other females in aviation that will support you all the way. You are not at a disadvantage by being female – if anything you are at an advantage because you stand out!
JF: You have historic women icons such as Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Eileen Collins, Jeana Yeager and Nicole Malachowski. Do you think they did enough to inspire the right percentage of women to get into aviation?
DB: No – I think those sorts of people offer the perspective that to be a successful female in aviation, you have to do something extraordinary. There needs to be a larger portrayal of female flying instructors, female aerobatic Pilots, etc.
[The industry] needs to show more that being a female Pilot is accessible to every woman, no matter what your background is. Whilst these people are incredibly inspirational, I don’t think this shows the right image for young girls.
LI: I completely agree with Daisy on this.
JF: Media outlets have said that COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. Bearing in mind the difficulties that surround training during this pandemic, do you feel it discriminates against women more, and why?
LI: Yes, because I believe there will be fewer female dedicated programs from airlines and training schools because of a lack of funding and demand for Pilots.
There will always be charities such as the BWPA pushing females in aviation and attempting to stop the stereotype of Pilots being male but we also need airlines and large companies to get involved and provide the opportunities.
DB: Yes – as Lucy says, due to the lack of funds, etc, scholarships such as the CAE Women in aviation program won’t be available anymore.
There won’t be as much of a push to get females into aviation because everyone is saying not to go into aviation as a whole at the moment. Whilst this is the same for men, it reduces the opportunities that were previously there for women.
JF: What is your end goal as a woman in aviation?
LI: To be a Pilot, and hopefully somebody who can inspire the younger generation to see aviation as an accessible career. I’m hoping by the time I’m a lot older and nearing the end of a career as a Pilot, the scene will have changed and aviation will not be as money-oriented.
I think we need to start from the bottom, so encouragement for schoolchildren is needed so that they should reach higher.
DB: My goal is to get my commercial license after university and become a flying instructor. I’m aiming to do some more ‘unusual’ flying as well such as skydiving ‘jump Pilot’ whilst I build my hours, before going on to fly for a private jet company.
I’d like to inspire young females to become Pilots through my social media and show aviation as an accessible career for them.
JF: Did you face any sexism when starting out in the industry? And if so, do you have anyone that can represent you to fight this?
LI: Not directly, no, but I feel like the odd one out. It feels as though girls who like planes are still seen as unusual and that can be quite uncomfortable when you’re talking to someone about aviation and they suggest you should get a job as cabin crew.
That happened to me when I was speaking to an older neighbor about my Aviation Operations course, and he was dead set that I should be cabin crew. He was taken aback when I said that I wanted to be a Pilot.
I suppose it just didn’t enter his head that a girl might not be interested in just the stereotypical lavish traveling lifestyle of cabin crew with the fancy uniforms and heavy makeup, it wasn’t sexism directly but it did make me feel uncomfortable.
Other than indirect comments and thoughts like that, I feel like the industry has taken large steps to make females feel welcome and to improve gender diversity in aviation.
DB: I personally have not; however, every female Pilot will also get the odd comment, typically from older males. I don’t think this is really a problem compared to how it used to be – the aviation industry has definitely come a long way in this regard.
Everyone is very supportive and is treated the same. There is, of course, a lack of female Pilots and sometimes this can be intimidating, however, this hasn’t really affected me too much.
I now just have some really fantastic male friends who support me through my flying training equally as I support them. It’s a very supportive industry, almost like a family. As a female Pilot, you just have to ignore the odd comment that you are bound to get – it’s best to laugh!
JF: With that in mind, could that be the reason why there is a gap in the market? Because women don’t want to become Pilots? Or is it more of a socially-influenced perspective? E.g.: A friend of mine, wanted to become a pilot after her Grandad took her planespotting and she heard a woman pilot speak over the PA.
LI: I believe it is a socially influenced perspective. As I mentioned earlier, TV, books, and education play a large part in shaping a child’s thoughts and by reinforcing the stereotype that boys should play with cars and girls should play with dolls, from a young age it’s instilled a path in girls’ heads that they should be involved in beauty and ‘girly’ things.
I had no aviation influences in my family and got it all from Twitter. I would’ve never thought about a career in aviation if I hadn’t been pushed into it and encouraged to do different things.
DB: I think it is just showing young girls that they can be Pilots and showing female Pilots in a good light. Often girls don’t even consider becoming a Pilot because they don’t think they can, or because they think it’s a man’s job.
Having said that, I do think the gap in the market is because males are naturally more driven to want to be Pilots – I think there will always be a gap in the market, but it certainly should not be as big as it is.
JF: Is there anything else you wish to say to our readers regarding this topic?
LI: If you realize you’re interested in a certain topic- explore. Put your heart and soul into finding out your hobbies and your path will become clear. Motivate yourself to be the best that you can be, and don’t let any stereotypes put you off doing what you love.
Find people who can give you support and guidance- whether that be family, friends, or people on the internet. Take every opportunity given to you, so apply for scholarships and bursaries, as they are very helpful and you will meet some incredible people along the way.
DB: If you are a female and you want to get into aviation, don’t let the male dominated-industry put you off. As a female Pilot, I’m not treated any differently because I’m a girl.
If anything, I’m supported more. I’ve also made friends for life through this industry so don’t think you’ll be on your own throughout your training, or singled out – my male friends treat me as one of their own.
Go for it, it’s the best thing I’ve done and I won’t be looking back!
Lucy and Daisy are positive examples of women able to operate through the skies without many problems along the way.
However, it is good of them to use their platforms on social media to address the outstanding issues that still need to be fixed by those not only in the aviation industry but those in education and film to reduce stereotypical patterns where possible.
As the industry prepares to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of hope that airlines make a more proactive effort to bring more women into the workforce and make what is still a male-dominated field into an equal career path for all.