Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Oh My God! There’s No Man In The Cockpit!

Change perception through education

I really wanted this column to be humorous, but the more stories I heard, the more I wanted to cry! On one hand, we've made great strides over the past few years in asserting ourselves as professionals but, on the other hand, we still hear astonishing things like, "There's no man in the cockpit!" But, and I'm sure I speak for each of my girlfriends, I've had the greatest respect and encouragement, and still do, by many men and male instructors along the way, and am very grateful to them.

To some extent, we're all victims of stereotype and preconceived ideas. I believe in education, effort and example to help cure bias. It used to be common to hear "lady" doctor, but now that 50% of med students are women, we don't hear that as often. How can we make that shift in aviation?

Speak up! Complacency makes us complicit! If you're a woman and someone mistakes you for a passenger, let them know in no uncertain terms, nicely and clearly, that you're the pilot. If you have a male passenger, tell them what they might encounter and encourage them to speak up, too.

Keep your sense of humor. Humor is a wonderful way to educate one soul at a time. A little lighthearted teasing about an offensive comment can lighten the mood and helps put things in perspective.

Educate other women. I heard a recent statistic that over 80% of flying spouses (mostly women) are non-pilots. Tell them about your good experiences. Tell them if you can do it, they can do it. Encourage their husbands to help them learn to fly. We need more women pilots!

Tell your stories. Each of us has the power to change perception. Like Jill's experience with the older woman who she thought she was going to a costume party, the woman had preconceived ideas that were pretty valid. Jill did a good job of educating her, and used her story, her confidence, professional manner and sense of humor to educate and change her perception. Even well-meaning people are sometimes just misguided. We can help guide them.


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