In today’s world where many like to hashtag #Iam— (fill in the bank), WOAWies post with pride #iFlyItForward. Their unselfish and sustained commitment is changing the face of aviation.
Did you know that in January 2010 – just 8 years ago – the air and space industry did not talk about ‘women’ or ‘girls’? The subject was closed – women and girls were not interested.
That was the standard explanation for the dismal presence of women in the industry 100 years after Raymonde de Laroche became the world’s first woman to earn a pilot licence on March 8, 1910, incidentally, a commercial pilot licence, the only kind at the time.
United, We Fly It Forward®
United across borders – not by paid membership but by their sense of fairness and decency – WOAWies stood up, rallied and demonstrated with photos, videos, and press reports that women and girls were not just interested, they were eager to learn more about the various facets of the industry.
Every year since, thousands of WOAWies of all gender, backgrounds, and walks of life join voices and forces during the Week of March 8 to celebrate the world’s first female pilot licence in the best way they know how. They fly it forward to fulfill their vision – a gender balance industry where men and women thrive in harmony and parity.
Real Numbers Matter
Since its inception in 2010, the Fly It Forward® movement has always been about massive numbers – documented numbers – and advocacy.
The numbers are changing the face of aviation. The advocacy is creating a shift in attitude in our industry and governments.
Since 2010, thanks to WOAWies, almost 200,000 girls of all ages have discovered the world of aviation – up-close and personal. Nearly 40,000 went on a documented Fly It Forward® flight.
Our industry had never seen outreach events welcoming several thousand guests in one location – let alone several thousand women and girls. WOAWies who compete for the annual Most Female Friendly Airport Worldwide title routinely host large multi-faceted outreach events.
While huge events are highly noticeable, it is the combined reach of WOAW that is truly remarkable. In 2017, at events ranging in size from 25 to several thousand, WOAWies introduced a whopping 53,000 women and girls to aviation in 148 venues across Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania – in just one week.
Not only are those numbers impacting government statistics – the U.S. has its highest level of female student pilot starts in March – they also reverberate far beyond the walls and fences of WOAW event locations and are changing perceptions among the female population.
The number of women and girls attending events who state that they had previously sought information about the industry has nearly doubled (28% in 2017) since we began recording attendee survey data.
However, the percentage of women and girls who venture out without a gender-specific invitation remains low at 15%. That’s why it is so vital for WOAWies to do whatever they can to open the industry’s doors for girls of all ages in their community during Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week 2018, March 5-11.
Our unity and sheer numbers have accomplished far more than bringing the subject of ‘women’ to the forefront, raise awareness in the general female population and affect the statistics. They have pressured our industry and governments into action.
Gone are the days when aerospace companies and airlines could ignore International Women’s Day, something they routinely did before 2010, without feeling any backlash. Want proof? Do a Twitter advance search for tweets by your favorite aerospace corporation or airline or pilot association on March 8, 2010, 2011, 2012, etc. You’ll be amazed.
There is progress on the government front as well. After we celebrated 100 years of female pilots in combat in 2015, the military took a look at their recruiting practices. Countries like India and Russia have recently announced that female pilots will be ‘allowed’ to fly in combat. The U.S. government is in the process of implementing a ‘task force’ to address the lack of gender balance in the American air and space industry.
Each WOAW event organized, each Pink Paper Plane launched, each social media comment posted, each article written with the aim to celebrate our heritage and our accomplishments, and usher in the next generation of women, whatever their age may be, is making a tangible difference. Let’s pressure on, unite, and fly it forward. It truly works!