Monday, September 14, 2009

We're Everywhere

As you know, I'm currently partnered with another female pilot at work, and whether it's just a statistical clustering or a tipping point reached, I'm meeting women everywhere in aviation these days. Every crew I've met lately has been one guy and one woman. Every shop I've had an airplane in has had a female apprentice on the floor. And on the radio I don't even know whether there are more male or more female air traffic controllers. It's not that I'm snobby and don't like men, but having someone of your own gender in the hangar is like being on the road and meeting someone from your hometown. It's a refreshing thing to have more of us around.

At the airport where we're basing this week a crew drive up in a city truck. It's a one guy and one woman. I ask them if they know anything about how much avgas is in the tank, but they say they are just there to cut the grass. It's a small enough town that they know whom I should talk to about the fuel supply here. I should feel a little bit silly that in asking for that contact I referred to the unknown person as "he" but it's a woman's name I'm given to contact. Now who is making incorrect assumptions about who will be dealing with avgas and machinery?

Ever had someone say, "oh I worked with a guy with green eyes at another company. He was ..."? It really doesn't matter how that ends. No one would ever say it because it makes no sense to classify people's piloting skills based on eye colour. I don't think people make blanket statements about women teachers or women real estate agents or women grocery store clerks, because there are so many women doing those jobs they know that some are caring, some are pushy, some are lazy, some are brilliant, some are disorganized and so on. It's perfectly natural for people to notice things or people who are different and to classify similar ones together, so I can't even call someone who puts the two female copilots he's ever had in the same box. I'm just happy that the box is getting bigger so that we can now excel or suck on our own merits and not on behalf of all womankind.

In this blog entry, and the preceding one, Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes comments on the women working as pilots, engineers and management at Air Asia. It looks like they're just starting out there, being called "the rose among the thorns" so each of those ladies is still carrying the flag for her gender in every thing she does right or wrong. You go girls. And boys.

Those humans, they really know how to fix/fly a plane, don't they?


Anonymous said...

A King Air Medivac flew into Victoria on Saturday, both flying crew were of your gender and one of the paramedics was also. Seemed to work just fine.

dpierce said...

Green eyes, no. Red hair, yes. :) [point taken, anyway]

Anonymous said...

Interesting summary over on of this point. Transport Canada stats show that female pilots account for 6%, 7%, and 5% of PPL, CPL and ATPL licenses respectively. Fewer than I would've thought.

Sarah said...

Ever had someone say, "oh I worked with a guy with green eyes at another company. He was ..."?

If I had heard someone say that I may get the wrong impression. No stereotypes here, but I will admit to having green eyes myself.

Niss Feiner said...

Somewhere I read that advancement in aviation is Flight attendants are now able to get the captains pregnant.


chephy said...

Very well said. I don't mind sucking at some things: you can't be good at everything. What I loathe is the assumption that if I am bad at something, then all other women are as well, and if some other woman can't do X, then it follows that I can't do it either. On the flip side, I'm also not happy to learn that I "must" be good at something because females generally are good at it. It just so happens that there are some very traditionally "female" things that I'm incomprehensibly awful at, and some traditionally "male" things in which I easily outperform 99% of men.

Dafydd said...

Well - This is a favourite of mine . In the 1980's I served a tour as Recruiting Officer for the Royal Air Force. Applicants were pretty much evenly split male/female - perhaps slightly biased malewise . However ,RAF policy (at the time) for female recruitment was constrained to around 12% of the total . Inevitably the result was that the female intake was evidently (and intentionally)of a very high quality .The theory then prevailing was that in the event of general mobilisation to counter any major threat - a rapid way to expand numbers would be to substantially increase female recruitment - building upon this quality base . Politics aside , the theory was probably sound and a secondary feature - I feel sure - has been that having demonstrated better than parity performance (albeit at 12% ) female intake has been increased year on year across the whole spectrum - and rightly so .
In general service I was always much impressed by my female superiors and co workers who so often outperformed their male counterpoints.

Sarah said...

Very well said, @chephy

I can't stand being told I "should" like something, or "probably wouldn't enjoy or be good at" something simply based on my gender.

satiric video response?

and same dizzy pilot..

Aviatrix said...

daffyd, that's a smart way to introduce a new component to the workforce, and of course the opposite technique of hiring a minimum percentage of a minority can have the opposite effect, making people think that members of that minority are less capable.

I'm not a fan of affirmative action, for that reason and because of resentment from the majority.

When I first did the numbers on pilot licences I seem to remember that women made up 5% of all licenced pilots and 2% of all ATPLs, so I guess some of us have moved up, but our proportions haven't increased overall.