There were 228 applicants this year for the flyGIRL scholarship! This time I’ve recruited a scholarship review team. It’s very exciting! Last year the scholarship was only offered through Sporty’s Academy and it was since decided to open it up nationwide through the Women in Aviation International organization. They do a great job of taking care of all the administrative details!
During my recent multi-engine training in Florida (apologies to my friends and family who suffered through cold temperatures and lots of snow further north), my mind was focused and determined to narrow down the scholarship applicant candidates. No easy feat. This process has made me wish that I’d win the lottery so more women could get financial assistance from flyGIRL for flight training! It might help if I actually played the lottery.
While speaking with one of the flight school managers of Sky Warrior Flight Training here in Pensacola, we discussed why we believe more women aren’t becoming pilots. He has observed that more women give up on training before men do. That’s too bad! There are lots of theories on this subject.
Why Not Be A Pilot?
These are my personal beliefs, based on my own experience. Basically, this is why being a pilot didn’t seem like a reasonable, viable career path for me. This may not be true for every female and please don’t be offended.
1. I wanted to be a mom and moms couldn’t travel, right? My family was traditional and my mother stayed at home to raise my sister and I. While growing up and thinking about my career path and future, having children was important to me. Therefore, being present for them was foremost. Being a pilot would make that challenging.
Interestingly, in this day and age, some parents over do it. This is where the term “helicopter parent” comes in. There is a difference in being available to your kids and going overboard with your involvement. There are many moms who put their own dreams aside for the 18+ years they’re raising children. And then they’re lost when the children grow up and no longer want or need their involvement. This began happening to me and the necessity for reevaluation of my life and my choices became apparent. A light bulb went off and the realization hit that there were other dreams and desires that I wanted to fulfill. Being a mom didn’t mean my desires had to die. My kids need to know that they’re not responsible for making me feel needed and valued. I’m always telling my kids to seek out activities they enjoy. Don’t follow the crowd. Everyone has unique gifts. Search for those things and learn to do them well. Fulfillment will follow. Learning to fly was my opportunity to demonstrate this to my boys. It has been the greatest opportunity to exhibit hard work, perseverance and the belief I hold that it’s never too late to go after something you’re passionate about.
2. Being a pilot didn’t seem a viable career option. There were no female pilot role models around me. My high school guidance counselor never mentioned pursuing something that was unconventional. There was never any type of testing at our school designed to help me align my future education with my desires. I felt like a robot. “Just get a college degree.” One of the main benefits of college, I discovered, was not what you actually majored in, but all the things you learn along the way. You figure out what you’re good at and what you suck at. You also learn how to be better at the things you suck at, or at least camouflage the things you suck at (can you say “group project”?)!! You can also learn what really motivates you and what actually exasperates or drains you.
Something that has always been a challenge for me is fitting into a box. Being conventional. Looking back throughout my life, my happiest experiences were when I was doing something adventurous or uncommon. Proving to myself that I had courage and was anything but typical, put me on top of the world. This was where my life would thrive.
3. I thought one needed to be a borderline genius in order to be a pilot. Early on in my elementary education, there was the realization that my life would be just fine by me without science and math. There were many tears shed at our dining room table working through math problems during homework time. After the completion of my last class in college that involved numbers (accounting, statistics, calculus), I’m pretty sure there was a huge party in my apartment when I whooped and hollered until my voice was gone. The fact that my brain was still intact deserved to be celebrated.
Science, on the other hand, was okay for me. It just didn’t really excite me that much. I’d much rather talk history, write an essay or dissect a sentence. Whenever there were conversations overheard about being a pilot, it seemed that an individual needed to be strong in mathematics and science in order to “make it.” There was little doubt that these weren’t really subjects in which I was interested or found remarkable. So, aviation was off the table. Waaaaaah!
Debunking These Fallacies And Encouraging Other Women
Now, the birth of the flyGIRL scholarship allows me to debunk these theories that directed some of my choices and show other women that there are really no boundaries they can’t overcome. There are a variety of reasons that women may not think they can be pilots or be involved in aviation in some other capacity. The scholarship exists to help women who have a dream. There may be only one winner but it stands to show others that their goals are possible and that there are people who believe in them, no matter their obstacles or misconceptions. Each applicant is worthy of recognition and deserves to be cheered on as they go after this worthy, rewarding passion.