In late 2009, Mireille Goyer, an airline pilot and aviation educator, conducted a search for planned events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first female pilot license worldwide earned by Raymonde de Laroche on March 8, 1910. To her dismay, she found none.
Determined to not let this important milestone for female pilots go unnoticed and uncelebrated, Goyer launched a worldwide campaign. Her goal was to honor the female aviation pioneers of 1910 by fulfilling their dream to see more women involved.
She encouraged pilots from around the world to “Fly It Forward®” (i.e., introduce a girl or a woman to flying). As a result, over 1,600 girls and women discovered the joys of flying in thirty six countries on four continents throughout 2010.
Understanding that the limited number of female pilots explained in part the Centennial celebration oversight and that a key barrier to women’s participation in the air and space industry is the common perception that the field is ‘for men’, Goyer launched the annual Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week initiative in 2011 to continue the outreach effort born during the centennial celebration.
The initiative aims to foster gender balance in the air and space industry. It celebrates women’s historical contributions, raises awareness of aviation’s opportunities for girls and women, and sparks vocations among the female population by introducing girls and women to aviation thanks to industry-wide collaboration.
As of March 2016, 140,000 have directly participated in the annual celebrations and 30,074 documented Fly It Forward® flights have been granted to girls and women on five continents. Significant media coverage in association with the week’s activities has allowed many more to become aware that this exciting industry is for women too.
Reaching out to women is only the first step to increase gender balance in the air and space industry. Making it easier for those who are interested to succeed is an equally important step.
The Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide (iWOAW) was incorporated on September 10, 2012, with the goal of continuing outreach efforts and increasing their efficiency by complementing them with research and education initiatives aimed at facilitating the integration of women in the industry.