It 2015 and women in aviation are still often dealing with both subtle and not so subtle comments or criticisms in the cockpit. Some are subtle and often unintended, others are more glaring but thankfully becoming more rare, and some its subtle to pass off as unintended yet so consistent one can see its not unintended.
Some examples of comments made: (names were changed or deleted for privacy)
"We will be doing a manual reversion and "M", you might want to ask for help from your NFP. Girls have a really hard time with this maneuver and are not strong enough."
"doing engine out work and the instructor was talking about the rudder and how much pressure it requires...... And says "I always see girl... Um... Weaker people who have trouble."
"GV initial one of the instructors was going around saying "women should not be in long range aircraft".
"Some of the men at my work think it's funny to compare contract negotiations to women playing soccer in bikini thongs."
Nicknames often given to women in orientation class for a company like "quota" "token"
Even flight schools do this early on, with videos and powerpoint images in which no women are pictured or if pictured they are a passenger or a customer service/ flight attendant.
Many women have emailed us with their issues with flight instructors, that they know something isn't right but cant quite place why they are so uncomfortable. The instructor placing arm around the back of their seat and touching them, always with the comment of the close quarters of the cockpit, instructors leaning across them letting their arm/hand touch their legs or such to "test" the magnetos, not just once in a flight but multiple times. Sometimes its comments implying that women have a hard time with understanding certain technology or mechanics of the aircraft because they are women. Even comments on the parking of the aircraft in comparison to women parallel parking. Talking to all the pilots in the room or inviting the men out for drinks after work, but not the woman pilot. Even instructors have found only negative things to say t the woman pilot in a sim session, but none to her male counterpart in the same sim session and lessons. Even using acronyms that further degrade flight lessons using sexual terms that demean women "Two Virgins make dull company" and yes its still heard in some classes.
Yes even the outright sexual harassment and discriminations occur, as comments about their breasts or breast size, shape of their legs or how they wear their uniform, crude notes left in cockpits for the ladies to find, blatantly asking to come to their hotel room to watch a movie.
Many say oh they were just joking or didn't mean it to be harmful, yet there is an element of truth in joking. Many men say their wives/girlfriends would be jealous if they found them socializing with a woman from work/school. Are these same men the jealous type to not let their wife/girlfriend do the same at their work? Or they assume they have nothing to talk about with the "token" female, somehow thinking she will only discuss children, makeup and clothes?
I wonder if these same men do this to the daughters/nieces/sisters/wife they know. A man once stopped his car in front of my house (after circling the block first) wondering what I was doing. (I had the hood up on suburban). I was checking the oil in my car as I told him. He actually was amazed he never seen a woman do that. I asked him have you ever taught your wife or daughter how to? His response was to drive away. But I do wonder how many men and even some women teach their daughters/nieces about shopping and clothes and how to drive but never teach them how to change a tire or check and or change their oil, or how to use the lawnmower and weed eater, or how about teach the sons/nephews how to do laundry and cook and wash dishes and sew on buttons. We raise them with the subtle hints of male and female capabilities, but for those who break through that barrier we are still dealing with barriers.
Also we are encouraged to not go to HR and complain, or don't write about it in the critique notes at sim class, because it somehow makes life harder for the other women and ourselves unless it is blatant and witness of course. I think this has to stop and we do need to encourage changes. Whiners we don't need, but conversation and more of those good men who are truly supporting having a good pilot no matter the gender need to step up and help those changes occur. But do pay attention we don't trade one subtle discriminatory comment for another.
Women in the early years of aviation faced great hurdles and through WASPs and many other great ladies since have proven women can fly, including women in the 1970's and 1980's were struggling with the sterotypes, but even I coming into the workforce in the 1990's and now my own daughter also finding some of the exact same issues in this millennia. This should not be.
Tamara Griffith is the main writer of the blog Gift of Wing and all of Gift Academy's media, yet much of the lessons, and thoughts are from all experiences of Mary and Lawrence Latimer, Tamara Griffith, and everyone else and the aviation community we feel needs expressing.