Kreisha Ballantyne looks at the 9th annual Women of Aviation Worldwide Week.
In the very same week Sydney’s second airport was named after Nancy Bird Walton, pilots around the world are celebrating Women of Aviation Worldwide (WOAW). March 4–10 is a global aviation awareness week observed to mark the anniversary of the world’s first female pilot licence. The week is a call to address gender imbalance in the air and space industry.
In late 2009, Mireille Goyer, an airline-rated pilot and aviation educator, conducted a search for planned events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first female pilot license worldwide, earned by Raymonde de Laroche in March 1910. To her utter shock, she found none.
Determined to not let this important milestone for female pilots go unnoticed, Goyer launched a worldwide campaign. She encouraged pilots from around the world to Fly It Forward® to introduce a girl or a woman to flying.
As a result, 51,538 flights over 47 countries on five continents have been conducted since 2010. More than 256,000 women have directly participated in the annual celebrations.
This year, WOAW is being celebrated across the world via multiple initiatives. This year’s theme is Lights, Camera, Action celebrating 90 years of female movie stunt pilots, in particular Florence ‘Pancho’ Lowe Barnes, the first woman to work as a movie stunt pilot in 1929. Participants are encouraged to send in their videos and images to educate and inspire women to fly.
‘Too many women are not aware of women’s long and rich history of contributions to the industry,’ says Mireille Goyer, international WOAW’s founder and president. ‘By selecting a theme based on women’s notable breakthroughs every year, we are aiming to restore women’s roots and rebuild their aviation identity.’
The Fly It Forward® initiative continues to gather momentum, while the Pink Paper Plane Challenge encourages pilots, regardless of their gender, to photograph themselves flying a pink paper plane in an attempt to raise awareness and foster the community of women in aviation.
Locally, the Australian chapter of Women in Aviation, while not specifically supporting WOAW, celebrate International Women’s Day.
‘Since I launched WAI in Australia, we have had various events hosted throughout the regions which align with International Women’s Day each year,’ says WAI Australian Chapter President Tammy Camilleri.
‘This year’s International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme of #BalanceforBetter is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world and the team of volunteers from our WAI Australian chapter have been working to create #BalanceforBetter since our chapter inception.’
WAI has hosted a wide variety of events encouraging women to take other women flying. WAI is also instrumental in offering a mentoring platform and a whole range of scholarships.
‘We have made a commitment to increase female representation within the aviation industry and we are making a positive impact with the dedication of our members and engaging our ongoing industry collaboration,’ says Tammy.
Flight Safety Australia has looked at women in aviation in a number of articles including Women’s Work published in 2015 and more recently in Where are all the Women?
It would be great to see a compilation of the female movie stunt pilot footage made available to the flight safety readers, just in case we are considering new careers in wing walking or similar feats.