Women Don't Fly Airplanes: The Shocking Statistics and A Future Hope
50.8% of the U.S. population is female. Only 6% of all pilots in the U.S. are female. EAA targets this divide with an incredible Women in Aviation program. It starts at 9th grade. It starts too late.
I always tease my girls and say things like, "I wonder if girls can drive tractor trailers." Sometimes they say no. Sometimes they hesitate.
They're 5 and 8. Already, many times, I've fought to correct things they've learned: motorbikes are for boys. Girls are better with babies. Girls don't like trucks. Blue tshirts are boys' tshirts.
I'm 35. No one ever really told me girls couldn't fly airplanes. No one ever really said it was a guy thing.
But, I went through aircraft maintenance school with 60 guys. They had to dedicate one of the bathrooms just for me. I was young. I had no idea how the year would go nevermind the rest of my life.
Like my guy friends, my worries revolved around paying for school, the next maintenance test, and beating everyone else at whatever might be the weekend sport of choice.
But unlike them, I constantly answered this question from strangers, friends, and school leaders... "Will you get married? Will you have kids?"
They asked not just out of fear for high risk bush pilot life, even those who knew nothing of those plans would ask. I got so used to it that I began to answer with confidence with the "right" answer. Nope, no kids, no problem. And I heard it so many times that I no longer knew what I really wanted. I began to see only one option.
Do you know why they asked me this?, I asked Lily today. No, she didn't. She's eight. I told her.
They asked because children need their mother, and a mother has a really important job, and flying, especially bush flying, can be a very intense and demanding and extremely high risk job.
And to that my child said, "But don't kids need their Dads too?"
And yes, but it's not just that child. There is a wall that need not exist.
We must not draw lines based on all the imaginary what ifs. And what if? What if I had gone on to fly in a remote area and then had you, child. What would I do? I would adapt as I did in every other aspect, the way that fit best for us.
The truth is, even the companies that claimed I had to think this far ahead to work for them have a incredibly high turnover rate. I didn't need to think ahead to forever. I didn't need to commit to forever.
But I felt it strongly: the choice, that single, binding choice. And like the restroom relabeled to womens all because I had upset the balance, I also knew that I did not truly belong.
It became one choice: to be truly female, or to give that up to fly.
This is the choice we present. This is the choice our girls already see in grade school.
I haven't sat at the controls of an aircraft for ages. I haven't climbed in a dozen or more years. I long ago stopped logging on to my once favorite computer games.
It has been ages since I played ice hockey or rode rails on my snowboard and carved through beautiful layers of powder.
I haven't hiked solo in years, but I haven't desired to either. I once drove a 98 Civic with a blue short throw shifter. I spent time driving just to drive. I got my hands dirty helping repair all kinds of engines.
None of that, none of that did I regretfully give up to raise a child.
None of that did I happily give up to raise a child.
All of that was just part of a life that flexed with each passing moment, mostly unpredictable.
I worked on computers. I wrote stories. I took road trips with little planning and lots of All American Rejects on repeat. I learned photography. I did my own car maintenance. I ran 10ks and half marathons. I started a business.
And all of that I did as a mother too.
Life has changed, and I don't fly or skin my knuckles in engines anymore. But some day I will again, and you can bet these girls will be right there by my side. And I will let them know over and over again: this is what you were made to do.
You can start. You can quit. You can take this trail wherever it leads. And indeed you should. Fly the plane, kid. Ride the bike. Land the deal. Take the job. Quit the job. Drive the truck. Scrape some knuckles.
These opportunities, girls, are for you. Take them all.