In the past six months, I’ve been travelling by plane more often than I’ve flown in the entire rest of my life.
As I boarded my latest flight to San Fransisco from Portland, the realization finally confronted me head-on:
I’ve yet to encounter a single female pilot.
That seemed normal enough for a while. I don’t think it’s exactly a secret that men clearly dominate that particular industry…
I realize now, I just didn’t know quite how dismal this professional landscape looked at this point.
So my curiosity led me to the same place it leads most modern humans: I googled it.
“Why are there so few female airline pilots?” I asked.
I wasn’t expecting to learn anything uplifting (women are just silly if they enter these types of territory with optimism, although I hope that changes).
But it was considerably more depressing than I had hoped.
Bear in mind, this is coming from an eternal pessimist who is convinced the glass never started out with anything more than the half empty it is now.
I don’t want to focus on discouraging statistics because this post is certainly NOT about how underrepresented women currently are in the aviation industry.
Let’s suffice to say that most of my research sources seem to agree that women make up a measly five percent of all commercial airline pilots.
I know…that’s fucking terrible.
But the next natural thing for me to wonder was, “what is the fucking problem for women here?!”
The job isn’t super demanding physically or anything.
Women and men should have equal potential in something like aviation, right?
Sure appears that way to me.
But I guess I’d also like to see more female NASCAR drivers and don’t really understand why there aren’t more of those already.
To be clear, I am in NO way a fan of NASCAR. There is nothing wrong with being one, of course. But I am not.
Having made that clarification, lets get back to the serious lack of women pilots.
Most of us aren’t especially brilliant and we are almost always late to show up for the party when we arrive at questions like the ones I was currently seeking answers to.
In almost all cases, smarter people have beat us to wondering the same things and usually do more in the pursuit of answers than we will ever do ourselves as well.
So it came as no surprise to me that the British Airways’s Future Pilots Programme had already done research in the hopes of identifying what was discouraging young girls from entering the aviation field.
Which leads us to what I personally feel is the saddest statistic in this entire story, by far: one fifth of respondants were NOT aware that women were allowed to have roles beyond cabin crew.
Read that a couple more times please. Let it sink in.
What the actual fuck? It’s 2017.
Epic fail, entire world.
So there is one lame as fuck reason to start the list, right?
Coming in at second place is the complete lack of female role models present in the industry currently.
Kind of a massive DERP, I know.
But it matters more than we may initially realize, so don’t brush past this.
When you have never seen someone like yourself in a certain role, what reason would you really have to think that it was a possibility for yourself?
Shocking answer: clearly you wouldn’t. As supported by the findings of this survey.
So that sucks.
But what about the creative world of cinema and fiction? Surely in realms where anything is possible, we would find more female pilots…right?
I challenge you to name a single movie or TV show that features one, even in a minor role.
Fun trivia fact: In 1972, Yvonne Pope Sintes became Britain’s very first female pilot after working her way up the ranks from being a stewardess.
How was she greeted by her new male colleagues?
One of them told her that if women ever joined, he would resign.
I don’t know how she responded, but I know what I would have fucking said to the douchebag.
Probably something like, “it’s already happened dumbass, no one is going to miss you. So why are you still here, unless you’re not a man of your word?”
But like most men, I’m mouthy and obnoxious. And a little over the top.
Most other women, however, are less of these things.
And I commend them for it, even if I fail the same test.
I like that women tend to have more class and a certain type of dignity than is common among their male counterparts.
Who knows? Maybe someday I will even take a lesson from them and shut the fuck up for two seconds. I doubt it though.
And if those aren’t enough reasons to explain all of this, I’ve got one more for you.
Sunshine.co.uk (an online travel agent) conducted a survey that found that just over half of those questioned admitted to being less likely to trust female pilots.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t think of anything that would be more inspiring than being told half of your passengers don’t think you can handle pressure or fly a plane as well as a man could.
I’m starting to understand why the aviation landscape is making progress in gender balance at such blurring speeds and it’s no wonder why women are flocking to become pilots in today’s world.
Don’t you agree?