Podcast: 90 Years Of Introducing Women To Aviation: 99s Press On


Although trying to entice more women into aviation seems like a fairly recent thing, the Ninety-Nines, founded by Amelia Earhart in 1929, have been doing it for 90 years and they’re not done yet. Ninety-Nines International President Jan McKenzie spoke with AVweb’s Russ Niles.

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  1. I get very, very tired of hearing about organizations that target a specific subset of the population to the exclusion of others. Why aren’t the 99’s offering flight scholarships for ALL people … not just women … and let the chips fall where they will? I wonder what they’d think if I started the old, white male pilots assn. and offered scholarships to only that subset of the population who need assistance … woman need not apply. Get the point? I’m not anti-woman … far from it. I’m glad that you found aviation and it’s your “passion,” Jan but … someone needs to say this … may as well be me. It’s 2019 and equal opportunity is now the norm, not discrimination.

    • Amen Larry S. I also agree that equal opportunity is not the norm today; that is demonstrated by these gender, race or other exclusively restricted organizations. And the argument that anyone can join women in aviation is overcome by the moniker of the organization itself. The pendulum has swung, and that does not show society learning from the past but avenging it.

      If an individual is interested in aviation I see them as an individual and so do all who I work with. The law does require equal opportunity and as long as we reach out to everyone equally that law is justly fulfilled. I don’t see how we can say society is reaching out equally with gender/race or any other specific organizations demanding special attention to a group of folks who may or may not be interested in furthering their involvement in aviation.

  2. “white male pilots assn”

    But isn’t that what most of aviation is these days? Less than 9% of the aviation population is female. Equal opportunity may be the law but it is not the norm, far from it. Any further comment from me will become a discussion of cultural and societal issues starting in grade school, and we don’t want to go there. By the way, most aviation organizations were started by “old, white male pilots”.

    • Fran … I don’t care who “started” an aviation organization … not one of the major aviation groups or major aviation companies today discriminates against women. We’re not talking about private fraternal organizations like the QB’s but formal aviation organizations like AOPA, EAA, ALPA, NBAA, FAA or any other. Name me one that doesn’t allow female membership or support female aviation aspirations or otherwise discriminates against women in 2019. I’m waiting, I’m retired and I have beer so …

      I just did additional research. Seems the 99’s were founded at Curtis airport (Valley Stream, NY) in 1929 by 26 of the (then) 117 female aviators. Amelia called for a meeting and 99 of ’em showed up … hence the name. In the 90 years since, the organization has grown ‘phenomenally’ from 99 to 5,159 members in 155 Chapters world wide (2017). Wow! In the 1978 ’99 News,’ an article reprinted from the Arizona Republic reported that 47,294 of the 784,000 pilots were females (6%). 41 years later, they’re currently reporting 42,694 of 609,306 pilots are females (7%). Hmmm … looks to me as if that percentage is the ‘sweet spot’ and all that tax free AEMSF 501(c)3 money isn’t having much impact. “Systemic bias,” Christopher. Give me a break. The opportunities are there — better than ever before in 2019 — yet the percentages remain historically static.

      In the interest of helping “grow” pilots in a gender neutral fashion, I decided to join so I downloaded the 99’s membership application. Looks like I’m outta luck because it specifically says, “Women only.” Hmmm … if you’re gender confused, can you then join? “They” got admittance to the Boy Scouts and all I got was … a rejection. See the problem? Like I said … Misandry !! You better change that application form right away before the IRS finds out, Jan. While you’re at it, you might try reading the 14th Amendment and its interpretations, too.

      • The same percentage of women ride motorcycles. It’s NOT because of marketing, social norms, hate, bias, availability, cost, physical ability or lack of support groups. The idea that “we just need to try those same things harder” for another 90 years is the definition of insanity.

        Support groups are great; offer support. Great. Done.

      • Larry has a solid point. I understood membership was open to men in the 99s. However I’ve revisited the site and it is exclusive based on gender:

        “As a licensed woman pilot (current or not), you are invited to become a part of our legacy as the first international organization of women pilots.”

        I also spent 5 minutes looking into whether a non-profit had the legal right to discriminate:

        “Discrimination law draws no distinction between nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Both types bear responsibility for complying with all federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws. If your nonprofit receives any federal funding or federal contracts, it can lose these privileges if it discriminates. Discrimination is also a civil offense, and people who are discriminated against can sue for lost wages, actual damages and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees.”

        There are many men out there who don’t have access to training provider scholarships or any of the benefits listed on the 99’s site for members only.

    • EXACTLY my point, Mark … driven home by my overt statement purposefully intended to shake the “bushes” and provoke some thought about the 99’s Mission. I carefully considered whether I wanted to start this narrative but … ya know … I AM tired of this sort of thing. If we need pilots, then grow pilots. If we want to promote female pilots then … get ready and put on your seatbelts folks … I’m calling MISANDRY ! I googled the opposite of misogynist and it said there wasn’t a word; I had to ask Siri. And THEN I’d ask … are the 99’s a tax exempt organization?

      I served in the military for over 20 years and I’m here to tell you that women wanted “in” all over the place when it became vogue to wear a uniform UNTIL they found out they weren’t physically capable of some jobs, or didn’t like the hours or dirty conditions or lack of privacy or yada yada. THAT is the problem. Women want to be treated the same until it’s no longer convenient. Maybe THAT is why 6-7% female pilots has remained static?

      I came close to naming a few other pilot “associations” but stayed focused on the 99’s for fear of starting a flame war. (Extrapolate). That said, girls can join the boy scouts these days, confused men can use the female rest rooms, males can participate in female events and so on. It’s a brave new world out there and Amelia has been gone since 1937. Be careful what you ask for … you may just get it.

      I told my wife what I did and she said, “Some female will say that piloting IS an old, white guy thing.” It IS … but I’ve never ever never seen ANY female who wanted to fly turned away from a FBO or anywhere. In fact, the opposite is the case, the CFI’s would be fighting over who ‘gets’ her … especially if she was attractive. (That’s not a slam or insult!). IF the 99’s want to be women promoting aviation … count me in. IF they want to be misandrists … count me out. At Airventure 2019, General Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the USAF trotted out the Reserve female General Commander of the Air Mobility Command AND a Major female test pilot of F-35’s from Edwards AFB. His point was that the door is open and the USAF needs pilots.

  3. Given the gender imbalance, I think it is a valid question to ask if there is a systemic bias towards interesting people in flying that favours men, and see if a different approach would encourage women. My limited experience of the 99ers is that that is their approach and as a father of 2 daughters I strongly support them. I’ve not experienced anything that leads me to believe their contribution to aviation is anything other than very positive.
    While I find any aviation-related environment alluring, I cringe when I see some of them through my wife’s or daughters’ eyes. Genders do seem to see the world through different lenses, and it doesn’t seem strange to focus on rebalancing the ratio by better meeting everyone’s needs and breaking down erroneous preconceptions. I think we all benefit.

    • Getting a private certificate with is crazy and plane ownership is insane.
      Professional pilots careers can be ended at any second with a minor medical issue.
      Maybe the difference is that women are more practical about long-term commitments than men? 😉

  4. I’ve made my point; apparently, others agree with my premise. SO … I hereby challenge Jan McKenzie to land her Mooney, come on this blog and tell us ‘all’ why the 99’s — a 501(c)3 organization — is discriminating against males in 2019. Simple as that. I can’t join and I can’t get a scholarship from them but maybe I have a male family member who needs some help to get his private license. I can imagine what they’d do if a major airline said they were no longer hiring females … for ANY reason.

    Inculcation of feminism by the 99’s — aka misandry — IS a form of “avenging,” Steve.

    UH OH! I just googled the NGPA and find that they, too, are a 501(c)3 organization, have given away $500K in scholarships and have $150K more waiting to be awarded. Their FAQ section says that one does not have to be gay to join or receive a scholarship, an applicant merely must write a memo outlining what positive service they’ve done for the LGBT community. THAT is what the 99’s oughta be doing … but ain’t. At least the NGPA Mission Statement appears — on paper — to be non-discriminatory.

    But then, conversely, the OBAP — another 501(c)3 group — is hiding whether or not they’ll allow non-blacks to join or apply for scholarships. You can’t easily find out. Suspicious.

    Like I said … Be careful what you ask for … you might just ‘get’ it … or, at least, get exposed.

    WWAS ? (What would Amelia say?)