On the 8th of March 1910, French woman Raymonde de Laroche became the first woman to earn a pilot licence. This date now marks the first day of Women of Aviation Worldwide Week which runs through to the 14th, today.
While progress has been made since Ms de Laroche received her licence, female participation rates within the aviation sector remain low. Women account for only around three per cent of pilots and one per cent of aircraft engineers in the worldwide aviation industry.
Since 2010 the Women of Aviation Worldwide Week has provided an opportunity to raise awareness amongst girls and women of all ages that aviation can be a rewarding career.
This year, the theme for Women of Aviation Worldwide Week was recognising culturally and linguistically diverse women aviators. It has been 100 years since Bessie Coleman, the first woman of colour, and Tadashi Hyodo, the first Asian woman, received their pilot licences.
“On International Women’s Day and in Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, celebrating the achievements of women pursuing careers in aviation is important,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack said.
“While I acknowledge there is still a lot of work to do, I am confident that the Australian Government’s Women in the Aviation Industry Initiative – a landmark four-year, $4 million investment announced in 2019 – will have a positive impact.”
Despite a disruptive year in 2020, leading industry stakeholders have been supported to actively encourage women into the industry. Since the beginning of the program in 2019, a range of activities have been undertaken, including the Women in Aviation International (Australian Chapter) National Conference in November 2019, and, during 2020 stalls at two face-to-face careers fairs in Adelaide and in Perth and three virtual seminars for students in Western Sydney, Sydney, and Melbourne. Over 400 women have been reached through women in aviation network seminars and mentoring programs, and over 4,700 face to face career conversations have been held between young women, their parents and aviation industry representatives.
2021 will see the Women in the Aviation Industry Initiative ramp up its activity with materials already having been developed for students and attendance at careers events one of the key priorities.
“It takes a long time for someone to become a commercial pilot or engineer,” Mr McCormack said, “so raising the awareness of young women in senior high school is important. In 2021 the Women in Aviation Initiative will have a presence at career fairs around the country, including in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and Townsville.”