Careers: Barriers Women Face
Throughout history, women have routinely faced obstacles along the road to
aviational success. Since the first woman tried to go up in the first aircraft built,
women aviators have been looked upon as a novelty at best, inferior at worst.
Nevertheless, women viewed this male-dominated field with a sense of
adventure and a willingness to rise to the challenge. The generalized lack of
familiarity of aviation career opportunities remains the single most prominent
barrier to diversifying the aviation workforce today. But thatıs not to say
women havenıt faced other problems throughout their struggle to be seen as
The opinion that great muscular strength was a necessity to fly an airplane
has long since been dispelled. Women during World War II met this challenge
with ingenuity, and it was later found that during emergency situations, the
burst of adrenaline women experienced allowed them to do whatever was
necessary, regardless of strength or size.
Another problem women faced was a lack of money. In 1940, womenıs
incomes averaged $850 a year and it cost $750 for a pilotıs license. In
general, for a wife taking flying lessons in 1940, the husband would have had
to relinquish half of his annual salary. The economic factor continues to be an
obstacle - the cost of tools and lessons has discouraged many women from
attempting to pursue their dreams.
Misguided beliefs have often led to conflict in the workplace. The women
involved as WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) were requested to
ground themselves during their menstrual cycles, under the belief that
menstruation affected women`s ability to fly. Great protests prompted a study
by the air surgeon, who finally removed the restriction when he found that no
woman stopped flying at any time during the month, thus proving that
menstruation didnıt interfere with flying. Nevertheless, menstruation continued
to be a problem when NASA claimed that this would cause women to not be
able to work for a few days each month, therefore providing unreliable service.
Eventually, this biological barrier was overcome, because NASA sent up Dr.
Sally Ride in 1983 with few qualms about her not being able to perform in
One dangerous obstacle women faced was the possibility of sabotage by
male pilots, as well as shabby maintenance on their aircraft. In 1943, a
WASP crashed in North Carolina. Afterwards, WASP leader Jackie Cochran
found the misfiled papers that cited traces of sugar in what was left of the gas
tank. Cochran admitted later that other WASPs had died from sabotage but
the cases were not pursued as the scandals would have immediately ended
Other difficulties women have encountered in the modern workplace include
hazing and teasing, sexual discrimination, biased language, inappropriate
jokes and pictures and difficulty being accepted by their colleagues and
management. Another common complaint is the lack of clean, private, nearby
and/or well-stocked restrooms for women on the airfield. Women aviators,
being a "rare breed," have found it difficult to make personal contacts within
their fields. While being the only female may have its advantages - people
remember you more easily - many women have found the situation to be quite
Nevertheless, despite these obstacles, women have challenged the field of
aviation to accept them and watch them succeed. Succeed they have, and
succeed they will continue to do!
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