From March 3 to March 9, 2014, events organized to celebrate Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week took place in 9 countries of 4 continents and drew more than 31,000 girls and women to aviation facilities.
Events complying with Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week event’s standards aim to foster gender balance in the air and space industry by specifically engaging the female population and introducing it to the many aviation-related opportunities available to them with the goal of improving gender balance in the industry.
Currently, approximately 2% of all aircraft mechanics are females, less than 6% of all pilots are females, and the percentage of female aeronautical engineers hovers around 10%.
Two thirds of the events included free first flight experiences for girls and women who had never flown in a small aircraft before. During the course of the week, more than 5,500 females discovered the end product of all aeronautical activities, flight.
Studies after studies have demonstrated that the key barrier to women’s participation in the industry is the perception that the industry is for males only. As a result, qualified candidates do not even consider the air and space industry as an option.
Changing perceptions and sparking vocations is the goal of the week. The exit poll conducted among all the girls and women registered to go on a flight experience points to success.
When asked whether they had considered seeking information about aviation activities before hearing about the Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week event they attended, 72.94% of the respondents said ‘no’.
However, after the experience, 79.87% of the respondents said that they would consider undertaking an activity for pleasure or for a career in aviation. Close to 90% of these respondents wanted to become a pilot but some preferred to consider aircraft maintenance, aircraft construction, and air traffic control.
Scott Weaver, manager of Leading Edge Aviation, a flight school in Utah reported that out of the 26 women who went on a discovery flight, three had already signed up for flying lessons.
“Year after year, the Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week initiative has been proven highly effective,” says Mireille Goyer, President of the Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide, a not-for-profit association that manages the Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week outreach initiative. “However, many industry key stakeholders continue to be reluctant to engage the female population as a solution to the much talked-about pilot shortage.”
“I was surprised by the reluctance of the Boeing Co. and Alaska Airlines to get involved,” reflected Bob Hoffman, organizer of the 2014 Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week event in Twisp, WA.
“It is a shame that Stansted Airport or any other near us in [the] UK didn’t participate,” lamented Jane Newson on the week’s Facebook page.