Recently, I was asked about the significant increase in male attendance at the Women in Aviation conference. From my perspective as a male person and also an active volunteer, I had several things in mind— and it was always my intention to post about conference, too. I became involved with my school’s Women in Aviation chapter years ago, because I value diversity and fight for equality. When I became president, my typical spiel was “No, I’m not a woman, but I do support women in aviation.” It seems to me that women have more fun with aviation than men. Furthermore, as a member of the LGBT community, I find it imperative that marginalized demographics, especially those of which involved in aviation, band together in an effort to promote their demographic.
I reached out several years ago to the writing staff at WAI, and I asked them if they needed any assistance at conference— what a better way to combine my two passions! They couldn’t have been more thrilled, and I was thrown into the ring to spotlight collegiate aviators.
Because egos are often inflated in aviation (I mean, let’s be serious. Flying airplanes is pretty cool!), we lose sight of our other talents and abilities. And when we all come together for conference, we can use these different parts of our identities to enrich the overall experience. Most organizations of which I am a part struggle to find and retain volunteers. It takes people power (not just MANpower) to accomplish a huge feat of corralling 4,000 attendees.
But I was dismayed by the number of men jumping on the bandwagon. It was obvious why they were at conference. Someone, somewhere, told them “Oh, you have to go to WAI. Everyone is there.” And it’s true! The best of the best and the who’s who of aviation attend this conference.
It’s exciting that our industry is experience growth. Future professional pilots like myself are in a great position for a great career. Just a few years ago, it was easy to walk up to the Delta booth and shoot the breeze, maybe turn in a resume for an internship, and walk away to the next booth. But this year, I had to navigate through endless lines of applicants, mostly male, and couldn’t get a word in edgewise to vendors. It was frustrating.
A source of mine, close to a large airline, said that they were sorting resumes by the applications based on years of membership with Women in Aviation— I praise that wholeheartedly. The question that often came to me as I saw the hustle and bustle of suited-up men was, “What do they contribute to the organization?” With my positive outlook, I can only hope that these men are truly joining for the cause and not riding on the coattails of many magnificent women to score employment. But the last thing I want is for this formidable organization to turn into that which aviation is already— a good ol’ boys club.
And I’m not going to police every male member of Women in Aviation. So long as you can fight the good fight of putting more women in the flight deck, welcome aboard.
Disclaimer: This is my opinion based solely on my experience at the WAI 2014 conference. In no way does it reflect the opinions of WAI as an organization.