January 27, 2014
Runway Girl Network
By: Mary Kirby
It’s no secret that the technical workforce of the air and space industry is composed mostly of men. Women occupy less than 12% of all technical posts in the industry, and some occupations such as pilots and aircraft mechanics “are even more diversity challenged” counting only 5% of pilots and 2% of aircraft mechanics as women, according to the organizers of Women Of Aviation Week.
Because men constitute an overwhelming majority of the workforce, some qualified female candidates don’t always see the industry as an option for them. Women Of Aviation Week is working to help change this perception issue.
Every year, Women of Aviation Week is kicked off during the week of 8 March – the anniversary date for when French actress, balloonist and artist Raymonde de Laroche became the world’s first licensed woman pilot (in 1910). The goal of this awareness week is to foster diversity in aviation by celebrating history, raising awareness, and sparking vocations as thousands of girls and women are introduced to aviation through industry-wide collaboration.
“Women of Aviation Week is not an organization that you can join. We don’t have you join and pay a fee. We don’t hold conferences or anything. We’re all about encouraging you pilots out there or aviation enthusiasts to welcome other woman pilots into the industry and our funding comes from businesses that become partners with Women of Aviation Week,” pilot Victoria Neuville explained in a recent episode of the highly popular Airplane Geeks podcast.
She adds, “Flight is just one part of aviation. You know there are so many pieces that make it work together – air traffic control, the people who design our charts that we use to navigate with. All of those people are very vital to the aviation industry and all of them are welcome to Women of Aviation Week because it’s not just about learning to fly. There is so much to [it] that these women can become interested in.”
A total 37 countries on four continents took part of the Women Of Aviation Week since it was established in 2011. Each year, the week’s theme highlights women of aviation’s accomplishments at the worldwide level. The theme for the 2014 Women of Aviation Week – to be held from 3-9 March – is: “Pushing the limits: 100 years of female aerobatic pilots and 50 years of women flying solo around the world”.
“It’s national women’s month in March so the timing is perfect,” notes Neuville. “And another reason we have it in March as well is we get these people interested early so they have enough time to complete their private [license] by the end of the year so they can get started in the spring and have this good flying weather, so timing is everything about Women of Aviation Week.”