Women in Aviation: Inside and Outside the Cockpit

 

By Steven Daun, National Chief Pilot

I went to an aeronautical university in the ‘80s and could count the number of female pilots on one hand. Growing up in a house full of women and watching them achieve what they did, I could not understand why more females were not getting into aviation. I have spent much time discussing this with both my wife and daughter as well, and the conversations never ended with a definitive conclusion.

Thirty-plus years later, I am finally starting to see this trend change. Four of our six schools have managers who happen to be female. We also have more check instructors and chief pilots who happen to be female than ever before.

This is not happening because of any social intervention on our part. It is happening because more women are getting into the aviation industry. Not only are they good, but they are smart, extremely goal-oriented, focused, and in many cases outperforming everyone else. 

The managers who happen to be female in our company look at problems and resolutions differently, which benefit students and instructors alike, and in many times, ways that their male counterparts don’t, myself included.

Some could say that this flows from the top down because our company owner happens to be a woman. While certainly a contribution, that statement may be too simple to explain everything that is happening in our industry. Success in aviation is not based on a person’s sex; it is based on their passion and proficiency. I do not think that anyone can identify one single thing that caused our industry to shift, but one of the most significant was a change in people’s attitudes. 

In reading most articles about women in aviation, the majority discusses Amelia Earhart, Jackie Cochran, and many others from the ’30s and ’40s. Others include female astronauts or airline pilots. While all of these are significant achievements, it is apparent that not many of these articles discuss the successes of women in general aviation today, and that is a shame. 

One of our key female employees sums it up like this.

There are several major airlines committing to closing diversity gaps in gender and race, some aiming for a pilot workforce made of fifty percent women and minorities. This is exciting news for our industry, but can you really dictate this type of diversity? The airlines will be hiring from the general aviation pool of graduates and instructors and this is where the diversity will come from. The aviation industry needs to do a better job encouraging yet more women to consider aviation as a career path. The hurdle to hiring a diverse workforce is a lack of females entering the training environment to begin with. 

Aviation is an elite community to which we proudly belong, but it will not grow without our effort as pilots. We need to share our love of aviation with young people in communities beyond our own. Instead of waiting for interested women to find us, we need to go seek them and share our passion. Once women recognize the possibilities that are waiting for them, a whole new world can open which will ultimately benefit all of us.

These certainly are exciting times for everyone in our industry. There are more opportunities for careers in aviation today than ever before. Many of which are opportunities that can be found both inside and outside of the airlines or the cockpit.