Guest Blog: Reclaiming The Narrative To Change The Face Of Aviation


Ed. Note: Mireille Goyer is founder and president of the Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide, which has marked the anniversary of the issuance of the first pilot certificate to a woman, Raymonde de Laroche, on March 8, 1910, with events aimed at welcoming women and girls into aviation held through the first week of March.

The historical silence or distortions surrounding women’s contributions to the air and space industry fuels harmful stereotypes about their capabilities in the present and robs the next generation of women of their rightful roots, negatively affecting their identity and sense of belonging. How can we claim to support women and yet suppress their contributions from our collective knowledge?

Within months of the world’s first human flight in late 1783, Parisian women climbed onboard the Montgolfier Brothers balloons. A decade later, Jeanne Labrosse was piloting a balloon solo and, with her husband, tinkering around with a parachute concept, eventually filing a patent for the design.

As dreamers across the world worked furiously to make flight practical, women were actively participating. Sadly, records of their achievements are hard to come by. To this day, many women’s breakthroughs and advances are more anecdotal than factual.

The inherent lack of data feeds a lucrative “women firsts” industry where almost any woman can claim a first, even when it is not, and, by doing so, suppress decades of women’s progress from our collective consciousness while reinforcing the narrative that women are newcomers to the industry, a significant entry barrier. Male and female early adopters are a rare breed comfortable with social isolation.

Still, some women’s firsts are well-documented and unquestionable. For example, by 1909, aircraft traffic in France was becoming intense enough that the Aéroclub de France established a set of rules for aircraft operations. A test-based pilot license became mandatory for commercial operations such as airshow flying and flight instruction in January 1910.

On March 8, Raymonde de Laroche became the world’s first woman to obtain the coveted pilot certificate. Her success marks the formal entry of women into the industry. A little over six decades later, at the height of the feminist movement, the United Nations chose March 8 as International Women’s Day (IWD), a day when women are recognized for their achievements and demand progress.

It should be a no-brainer for the aviation industry to remember Laroche’s March 8 breakthrough on the very day when the socially acceptable conduct is to highlight women’s historical achievements. Yet, few aviation stakeholders and pundits do. Unfortunately, far too many aviation women groups and female role models also fail to salute the woman who opened the doors for them.

Some behaviors likely take root in the lack of data visibility; others appear intentional. Whatever the case, they affect women’s confidence and perception of their role in the industry. Here in America, Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart are household names. One is associated with success, the other with an unsolved disappearance in high seas. Which one would you prefer to emulate?

The omnipresence of Amelia Earhart in our collective memory highlights how strategic historical distortion works. By the time Amelia set off on her fateful flight in 1937, female pilots had already flown over oceans, across all continents except Antarctica, in combat, and even for airlines. They had filed aircraft design patents, set up flight schools, and ran aircraft factories. Few know of their existence or their names. Removing the many successful female pilots from the narrative while spotlighting Amelia makes it easier to drive the message that women should probably stick to the kitchen, even if, truth be told, she had a male navigator onboard, so she should not have gotten lost, right?

Sometimes, intentional omissions appear to fall into the “avoidance of uncomfortable facts” category. That might explain why there are many attempts to rewrite history in aviation. For example, why are American women not first in flight, in the air or space? Were American women “not interested”?

The fact that French women were the first to fly in the late 1700s was a matter of geography and opportunity. But why were French women first again in the airplane category? The answer lies in noting that none of the first American female pilots piloted a Wright Brothers airplane. And the story kept repeating itself over the following decades. The world’s first airline began operating in Florida in 1912. However, Lufthansa was the first airline to hire a woman, Marga von Etzdorf, in 1927. During WWII, Germany and Russia actively recruited their existing female pilots and aeronautical engineers to join the war effort. America excluded them. American men had been flying in space for two years when the Mercury women watched Valentina Tereshkova launch into space from Russia.

These historical and sociological truths largely explain why the percentages of American women in certain aerospace occupations remain among the lowest in the Western world. They also void attempts to justify the underrepresentation by falsely accusing women of being unwilling/incapable of investing in their chosen education or engaging in shift work while watching women overwhelm medical schools and take on hospital shifts.

Highlighting women’s history is not just an act of overdue recognition and respect; it is a critical step towards a more accurate, inclusive, and just future. It is beyond time that we restore women’s substantial aviation roots to bring some normality to their participation and spur growth. The car industry nearly doubled when women got behind the wheel.

Our industry has held women at bay for over a century. So, it is. We cannot change the past. But we can remember it as is, analyze it, and shape a different future. That is precisely why I founded Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week in 2010, a global aviation awareness week centered on celebrating women’s past and present achievements and inviting girls of any age to experience our industry’s careers and hobbies hands-on.


  1. Hmmm. This article seems to suggest the USA is somehow behind other countries when it comes to women in professional pilot roles. How does that implication hold up? A brief Google search of the countries listed by the author shows that the number of professional pilots in France is around 9%, up from 4% thirty years ago. In Germany, the number is just shy of 7%. Stats regarding Aeroflot are hard to come by, but most sources suggest less than 1% of its pilots are women. What country has the highest number? India, with something north of 12%.

    Numbers vary by outlet, but a good range suggests women comprise some 4%-6% of the professional corps worldwide. As near as I can tell, the professional pilot cadre in the USA is around 5%. Are we really that far behind the rest of the world?

    What about military service? The USA opened combat flying roles to women in the early 1990s; Russia’s exclusionary policy remained in effect until around 2015. From what I can find, despite allowing women to serve in combat pilot roles since the mid-90s, there are only four or five women pilots flying combat aircraft in France today. It seems we are pretty far ahead in that arena.

    What about the repression of data regarding the historical exploits of women in aviation? I couldn’t help but notice that the author listed a number of them while telling us this information isn’t available. How did she find out?

    Something from my personal experience: I just earned my Commercial ticket after training with a very competent and professional (and young!) woman. She was training two other young women for their commercial certificates at the same time. No one seemed to think any of this was unusual or extraordinary, because it isn’t.

    I’m all for getting more PEOPLE on flight decks—women or men. I’m happy to contribute to EFFECTIVE efforts that might encourage more women to seek careers in aviation, mainly because I have three granddaughters whom I would love to see choose careers in aviation. But I just don’t see how beating men over the head for “excluding” women will in any way encourage women to seek aviation careers. If anything, you are telling an entire generation of women that men don’t want them on flight decks, and that’s simply not true.

    • I agree. Beating up men (along with other acts of sexism and racism) and distorting the fact that the US is often a leader in social change just seems to be an easy button for people trying to make a living off of activism rather than actually get results.

      It may often be an intentional grift, but I think it’s actually just a vicious cycle. Groups get quick hits of support with those tactics and think it means they are getting traction when instead they are just being counterproductive towards their ostensible goal while making them think their organization is getting stronger. More donations and more members seem like progress, but building an unnoticed, reactionary resistance really sets the cause back.

  2. Miss Goyer has for many years claimed she became a zealot for women aviators after searching (in France) for their aviation records, and finding none. She should have asked an American pilot. Like many, I have a large collection of historical books on the history of aviation, and they include many female pilots. They also do not mention any fundamental limitations built into aircraft that would prevent a female from operating it. Has she never heard of the 99s, founded in 1929? Has she never attended a Young Eagle rally to see all the girls standing in line with the boys to get their first experience in the air? I used to run a large EAA (1114, Apex, NC), with one of the largest YE flight records. I do not recall any limitations on girls getting a ride, nor on female pilots providing the rides. What we need are passionate, skilled pilots, not hyphenated pilots or female pilots with a chip on their shoulders.

    • I hold U.S. single and multi engine certificates and flown commercially in the U.S. since the 1990s. I might even have sold you some Airventure passes as a volunteer cashier. So, I do not have to ask an “American pilot” anything? I was the one who a UK-France cross-country event to celebrate Harriett Quimby crossing of the English Channel in 2012.

      I have no problem tracking women history, in any country, when it is available. I certainly do better that the National Air and Space Museum in D.C. that writes that the first woman hired by an airline was in 1969 or the 99s who posted that “Blanche Scott was the first woman to fly in 1910”. Zero mention of Raymonde. Interesting for an international female pilot association.

      I not only attended Young Eagles events, I also flew kids for the program, mostly boys. Indeed, there is no limitations on girls or female pilots. But before I wrote a previous opinion piece here in 2010, the Young Eagles website had zero photos of girls. EAA added photos of girls to their website immediately after that article (documented) and I am sure glad that, since I brought attention to the subject, there has a number of smaller “girl initiatives” launched. It will take a lot to close the introduction gender gap as the Young Eagles program continues to introduce far more little boys than little girls to this day.

      • In 2002 or so we had a woman pilot in our EAA chapter who flew only girls, and as many as she could, every YE rally. The pilot was in her 70s. Everybody smiled, everybody laughed, everybody had fun all event long, the pilots maybe even more so than the kids. Everybody just considered it totally normal and not at all out of the ordinary. It was always “We.”

  3. I’ve been in the FBO business for 53 years. Yes, there have been changes made.

    Currently, about 1/3 of new flight students are women.

    I’m on the selection committee for aviation scholarships for a noted Minnesota aviation association. Twenty years ago, it was rare to receive an application. Ten years ago, perhaps 10-15%. THIS YEAR, 62% OF THE SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS WERE WOMEN–and THE MAJORITY OF SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS WERE WOMEN.

    At this rate, perhaps we are going to have to have a program that includes MORE MEN to apply for the scholarships! (just joking!)

    I think we are reaching parity, where the scholarship applications prove that MORE WOMEN are looking to be included in a field formerly dominated by men–AND SUCCEEDING! Time to “claim victory and move on”………..women have “earned their place”–(in the COCKPIT!). (smile)

    • Why not offer scholarships to men? Scholarships should address financial needs related to social-economical backgrounds. There is no documented evidence that American women are less capable of financing their chosen education than men. Med schools are among the most expensive educational institutions, yet more than half of the students are women.

      • “Why not offer scholarships to men?”

        I’m sure jimhansen had his reasons for using all caps:


        In other words, 38% of the applicants were men. The fact that the majority of winners were women tells us nothing about their selection policy – maybe they were better qualified?

  4. Congratulations, Michelle! I completely align with your emphasis on the historical misunderstandings and distortions surrounding women’s contributions to the aviation industry. I agree that these misrepresentations perpetuate harmful stereotypes, impacting women’s identity and confidence negatively. The lack of visibility into women’s achievements creates a problematic ‘women firsts’ industry, suppressing their progress and reinforcing the false notion that women are newcomers to aviation.

    Stressing the need for a more detailed account of women’s history in aviation, I believe it is a firm step towards promoting a future that is accurate, inclusive, and just. The establishment of Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week in 2010 stands out as a commendable initiative, actively celebrating women’s accomplishments and inspiring young girls to explore aviation careers. This not only recognizes the past but also instills hope for a future that is more optimistic and equitable. Nailed it!

    • Thanks, Raf. Pretty amazing (and telling of the real real reason there are “so few women”) when people get very upset at the idea that women’s contributions should be properly included in aviation history as we embark in Women History Month.

  5. Having to continually defend yourself and your positions usually means you have a poor defense. Actions always speak louder than words. I am so tired of the woe is me approach. Maybe it just is what it is and you just can’t accept that. Hire all female pilots. I don’t care. Whatever makes you happy and feel good. It’s all about feeling good isn’t it?

        • DEI is not “the definition” of discrimination, which is defined as the “unjust treatment of different categories of people”. It’s actually the exact opposite, giving preferential treatment to historically-underrepresented categories of people. But those are two distinctly different things, whether or not you agree it is fair.

          • Discrimination is treating different classes of people differently, regardless of whether the it is unjust or not.

            Remember the ‘Separate but Equal’ laws?

          • Gary, you literally contradicted yourself in consecutive sentences. “Giving preferential treatment to… categories of people” is exactly the same as “unjust treatment of different categories of people.” You may agree with this particular choice of categories but that does not change anything: the advocates of category-based discrimination have always believed they had good reason; and the victims of category-based discrimination are being disadvantaged for something over which they have no control, which we have also generally considered “unjust”.

        • Pure equity is communism; the other 2 treat people based on external features. DEI is anti individual “by definition”.

    • “Having to continually defend yourself and your positions usually means you have a poor defense. Actions always speak louder than words.”

      I’m not really sure what it is you’re saying that needs “defending”.

  6. Everyone has different wants, needs, intellect, desire to pursue, or, not to pursue. People do not fit into nice neat little boxes some people think they should. Life is not fair. Lead, follow, or, get out of the way. You make things happen, you do not wait for others to do it for you unless you have to rely on DEI, or, it’s equivalent.

    This has all been tried for better than half a century under various other titles. Affirmative action, busing, EEO, DEI, FBE, MBE, etc. They are all bona-fide failures. I have been a part of all of the aforementioned. I am a witness to their failures. Today, any effort to acquire anything under the umbrella of discrimination is plain and simple a grab to get something for free. It’s that simple and that obvious.

    • I agree with you except that I would not lump in Equal Employment Opportunity with failed programs. Sure, some courts have distorted the civil rights laws to justify affirmative action (discrimination) and other preferences, but ensuring that everyone has equal access to compete for opportunities and to receive justice is absolutely critical. There’s a huge difference between Equal Opportunity and picking winners and losers based on identity for any reason, no matter how justified some may think it may be.

      I now manage a large team of professionals that is the top-rated department in our company of 1,500+ employees. The team is excellent in all respects, and there is a great deal of pride and cohesion in the group. The group happens to be quite diverse along any identity axis you can think of, and is also representative of the regional talent pool. My conclusion from this is that diversity is the natural result of prioritizing excellence and merit.

      We didn’t get here by hiring for diversity. We got here by prioritizing merit and achievement and striving to be objective about it, above all else. Again, excellence leads to diversity, not vice versa.

      It’s all well and good to take pride in your heritage and community, but foisting recognition and celebrations of it on others who do not share it just causes resentment and division (except for a handful of folks who can’t pass up an opportunity to lecture and virtue-signal). See Morgan Freeman speaking to Mike Wallace about Black History Month.

    • Since DEI is anti-individual and pro-racial profiling, It’s hard to believe it’s promoted.
      We fought against such things in the 60’s and 70’s.

      • What do you mean “we”?
        Segregation was evident in various aspects of life, including schools, public facilities, transportation, and housing. People of color faced significant challenges in terms of voting rights, economic opportunities, and access to education and healthcare. Racial tensions and violence were also prevalent, with instances such as the lynching of African Americans – too many examples having occurred during my octogenarian lifetime to discuss here.
        The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s brought about significant changes, with activists pushing for desegregation and equal rights. The struggle for civil rights in Louisiana, from my experience, led to the dismantling of many discriminatory practices. However, it came at the cost of lives and injuries, and dreadful terrorism.
        While progress has been made, racial disparities and challenges persist in various forms, including in areas such as education, employment. It’s important to recognize the historical context and ongoing efforts to address racial and gender inequities throughout the United States, as some white folks tend to regress. Plainly, redneck f**ks come out crawling from under rocks at the snap of a finger.

    • Yea, being a catholic youth, we marched and supported treating people as precious and as individuals. You know, humanity over politics and government. Truth to power. Jesus to Pilot.

  7. Michelle, your essay effectively underscores the historical oversight of women’s contributions to the aviation industry, shedding light on the detrimental impact on the identity and sense of belonging for future generations of women. The identification of intentional or unintentional distortions in historical narratives and their repercussions on women’s confidence and perception resonates with a widely shared sentiment. Your call to restore women’s aviation roots, emphasize visibility, and celebrate achievements is not just commendable but aligns perfectly with the core principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. These initiatives, like your narrative, strive to rectify historical injustices, advocate for the recognition of underrepresented groups, and foster environments that truly appreciate and celebrate the diverse contributions of individuals.

    • No Raf, This is a advocacy group. By definition they discriminate based on a “group”.
      That’s why I was hoping that they would be different. Good luck to them.

  8. I’ve seen this movie so many times before. I’m really getting bored. These advocacy groups all have the same story line. Me, me, me, it’s all about me. Gimme, gimme gimme. I want it and I want it for free. Same story different day.

  9. Jethro, Tom, and others:

    1. Before the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s, opponents raised concerns such as states’ rights, objections to federal intervention, preservation of segregation as tradition, racial hierarchy beliefs, fear of social upheaval, and economic arguments.

    2. Before the popularity of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, critics expressed worries about reverse discrimination, meritocracy concerns, fear of tokenism, resistance to change, misunderstandings of goals, concerns about political correctness, and fears of backlash.

    3. Over time, there has been increased corporate commitment to DEI, legislative actions promoting diversity, a shift in public perception, ongoing challenges, and a growing acknowledgment of intersectionality.

    4. Progress on both issues varies across regions and industries, requiring sustained efforts to address systemic issues and promote lasting change. However, some individuals or segments of our society have chosen to stay in the past, fearing social change due to ignorance or misunderstandings. Thus, my persistence.


    P.S., should you decide to continue opposing the topic on this platform, I will gladly present to you an essay I have prepared in anticipation of your response.

  10. I really don’t care Raf. You cannot escape the economic and performance degradation that all advocacy groups infect society with when they impose their demands upon all of us. You just can’t. When you limit your pool of resources you don’t get the best and the brightest, you just don’t. It’s strictly a numbers game. If you want to pay more and get less you’re on the right path. Like I said, I’ve been part of this fallacy for over fifty years. I’ve played the game and continue to play the game. Don’t try to tell me what I know to be true is not. You’re barking up the wrong tree. Knock yourself out Raf. Have fun paying for more and getting less. It is what it is.

    • “You cannot escape the economic and performance degradation that all advocacy groups infect society with when they impose their demands upon all of us.”

      Are you, or have you ever been, a member of EAA or AOPA or NBAA? Those are all “advocacy groups”. Do you fight for the continued existence of 100LL or your “right” to fly? Those aforementioned advocacy groups do, and if you do too, you’re “infecting society” by “imposing your demands upon [everyone else]”.

      These arguments cut both ways. You can’t lump one type of advocacy group into the generic without including *all* advocacy groups, whether you personally like them or not. To do so assumes everything is a zero-sum game, so anytime you help someone you are hurting everyone else, and that is rarely ever the case.

      If you want to argue against a *specific* advocacy group, that’s fine. But to lump *all* advocacy groups together misses the point.

  11. Miss Goyer is clearly from the DEI (Discrimation, Exclusion, Ignorance) camp which wants equal outcomes, not equal opportunities. I’m guessing she has no children and no grandchildren. If she did, she would know that boys and girls are wired differently and pursue by nature different careers. I made sure all three of my children knew the basics of piloting when they were teenagers. Our daughter became a clothing designer, our boys apprenticed as A&Ps and now build jet engines for GE Aerospace in Durham. NC. They chose their careers and we supported them. The boys’ boss is a woman who got her job because she is good, not because she wears a dress. Nearly her entire workforce is male, and they respect their female boss because she supports them and otherwise stays out of the way. Their plant is known as the best jet engine assembly facility in the world. As the comments here show, women have done well for a century in aviation, and with no barriers other than their own desire. I can easily think of a dozen or more whom I’ve known in my aviation engineering career started in 1980. For instance Golda Cox and Mary Jones, who ran EAA Publications during its strongest – pre-Woke/DEI – years. I find it hard to imagine that these smart ladies would have excluded pictures of girls involved in things like Young Eagles. None achieved their position because of their sex, but because they were good at their work. DEI is all about excluding one group of people to the advantage of another. That does not end well for either group. I suggest Miss Goyer get the chip off her shoulder and join the 99s, which has been doing a good job of promoting aviation to girls for nearly a century.

    • Wow, Kent. That is one of the most “Watch me totally miss the point” essays you’ve written, and you’re quite prolific in that category. First you mischaracterize DEI with the simplistic “outcomes” vs. “opportunities” dichotomy. Then you speculated on Mireille Goyer’s experience with children, of which you in no way could have any inkling.

      Next you provide one “counter-example” (your family, from your viewpoint) of men doing work they enjoy under a competent female boss (will wonders never cease?). Statistically, one would expect that there are quite a few female A&Ps that would love to build GE engines (and earn that kind of money) but oddly, there don’t seem to be that many. Could it be that there are impediments that make it harder for a woman to get an A&P, then the necessary experience, then get hired by GE, or is it just because they’d rather make a fraction of your boys’ salary at a bake shop. I don’t know, but skewed statistics like that deserve a more thoughtful analysis.

      Then you managed to refute your own argument by noting that in a 44-year career, you were able to conjure up a dozen notable women. Wow! Not quite four women a year! And how many hundreds of men? Not a terribly good ratio Kent, but then, if you were doing the hiring, that might be pretty good. I, and I suspect many of us here, know your two EAA exemplars. But let me ask you: in your high school, who were the editors of the newspaper and the yearbook? I’m surprised you didn’t think of Susan Dusenbury, the airline captain, A&P/IA/etc, multiple airplane restorer, chairman of the Vintage Aircraft Assoc., and oh yeah, on the EAA Board of Directors. Could it be that she doesn’t fit your warped idea of “women in aviation”?

      The first step to solving a problem is admitting that it exists. The next step is to do something about it. DEI is just the latest attempt to address a long-standing problem. It isn’t a perfect solution (it came from government) but it’s a step in the right direction.

      You owe “Miss Goyer” (not only were you demeaning, but assumed facts not in evidence) an apology. You have no idea that she isn’t a lifetime member of the 99’s, now do you?

      • Recipient of the 99’s 2012 Award of Inspiration for “introducing the world of flight to thousands of women and girls by designing and developing the Centennial of Women Licensed Pilots and Women Of Aviation Week” is the answer to the 99s question.

        I am the proud mother and grand mother of many baby pilots, the only children and grand children that are relevant to this story.

  12. Good grief. A woman pilot writes an article suggesting that “It is beyond time that we restore women’s substantial aviation roots to bring some normality to their participation and spur growth” and the result is that a bunch of men attack her for being “ignorant”, anti-civil rights, and for beating up on men. One commenter has guessed that the author has no children and no grandchildren.

    Meanwhile, the vast majority of commenters here are men (as far as I can tell) and the vast majority of humans sitting around the lounge at my local airport are men. Yet, here we are, a bunch of men complaining about an article written by a woman pointing out the obvious asymmetry of women versus men in aviation.

    Case in point, have we ever seen any comment made about any male AvWeb author’s likelihood of having children? The fact that it such a comment is made about a woman makes the very point about what women have to deal with in aviation (and in other male dominated vocations).

    Like it or not, our society continues to reflect longstanding discrimination, much (but not all) of which has been codified as illegal (Civil Rights Act, Equal Employment Act, and others) over the past 50-60 years. Changing the law didn’t change society overnight. Some of us believe that the effects of past discrimination continue to be harmful to citizens and would like to remedy those injustices. I agree, how that happens is a matter for debate. The fact that we are still an unequal society in many ways is not especially debatable, although it doesn’t stop people from trying.

    • I wish AvWeb had a simple thumbs-up / thumbs-down feature. Thumbs up to this reply. Thanks for calling out the ridiculousness of vocalizing questions about the author’s parenting history.

  13. Sexism pure and simple. The feminists are not satisfied with the description they did to this culture since 1947. Now, full power onto aviation as well. RIDICULOUS!

    • “… not satisfied with the description they did …”? Can’t spell, can’t read, and not so hot at reasoning, either. Care to cite a single example where women in aviation has negatively impacted your life? Or is this just male sexist foaming at the mouth?

  14. Too bad Mireille Goyer did not want to play in the NBA or NFL. She could be taking her wrath out on those organizations instead of aviation.

  15. Bravo R100RS! What I don’t get is the language we use when talking to one another. In my view, nobody is 100% right and nobody is 100% wrong. Please, please let’s show basic common courtesy to one another when discussing challenging topics.

    In the meantime, the country NEEDS more pilots, period! How’re we going to do that while shooting bullets at ideas on how?

  16. “In the meantime, the country NEEDS more pilots, period! How’re we going to do that while shooting bullets at ideas on how?”

    I say we hire more women and minorities. That seems to be the go solution to everyone’s problems. I’m all in.👍

    • Obviously the profession currently stinks so bad that that it’s driving off more than it can hire. It’s very rude of YOU to suggest that when a job is not attractive enough that YOU are saying “throw women and minorities at it”. Seriously?

  17. The great majority of comms to this article sucks. What wonders me is that, with so many pilots commenting, nobody is 100% right and a stunning part is, at least, 50% wrong. What’s happening to this world? The lack of a global WWIII? Come on, people (more correctly, pilots) wake up! Let’s show the others that we are a bit different!

  18. The trouble starts with the assumption that there is a “narrative” and it needs to be “reclaimed” in order for women to be recognized and valued in aviation. The three most influential flight instructors I’ve had–over 35 years, from primary training all of the way through advanced ratings–have all been women. Two of them started their own highly-successful flight training business. None of them had a chip on their shoulders, and none of them complained that they were not recognized fir their abilities or were deprived of opportunities. They were too busy kicking a$$ and taking names in the real world. The subject never came up, but I suspect they would have little patience for anyone suggesting that they are victims who “have been held at bay.”

    • Go back and read the article again, Robert. Ms. Goyer does a nice job of laying out exactly what the narrative has been, with examples.

  19. As a pilot with 58+ years in the industry, thousands of hours in the cockpit as a flight instructor, flight school owner/operator, married to a pilot and retired ATCer, and with former female students now flying in the military, airlines and as flight instructors, I fully agree with Michelle’s article.
    Women’s contributions to aviation history have too often been minimized or overlooked. This indifference is harmful, reinforcing outdated stereotypes, discourages the next generation of women pilots, and is as disrespectful as some of the comments made here.

  20. Oh, another divisive social justice article about an oppressed minority – in this case, the identity is “women” – and the (unjustified) punchline is “Our industry has held women at bay for over a century”. Really? Of course nor.

    You know you are dealing with CRT (Critical Race Theory) and Identity politics from the first words of the headline: “Reclaiming The Narrative…” Then we see other give-aways: “fuels harmful stereotypes” and “negatively affecting their identity”.

    I’m afraid any good points the author seeks to make are drowned in the ideology of CRT, which sees all of society through the lens of power. Those who are successful, have power and are thus oppressing those who are less successful, which are the oppressed.

    Women and men are different – and there is a biological reason for this. Men are typically more interested in things, whereas women are more interested in people. This is the reason why so many women are drawn to working in the care industry. They aren’t put there by men, it’s a choice. This has been thoroughly proven, by long-duration testing, in Sweden. Children were brought up absent of any gender stereotyping. The resulting chosen occupations were slightly more stereotypical than previously observed.

    Wearily, I must point out that this is not the design of men – it is a free choice. In my opinion, women are wonderful, and they can do something no man can do – they create life. Women also make great pilots and due to better tolerance of high G, they are arguably better candidates for aerobatic and fighter aircraft. My initial flight training in the 80’s was with a wonderful female instructor. However, whatever their gender, I will call out people who seek to divide us.

    • Avweb has become the Huffington Post of aviation news. I call it “HuffWeb”. Focus is virtual signaling articles and commentary which is the drug of choice for the self loathing. Keep an eye out for the report or guest blog on how useful loads and the rules of aerodynamics are racist, misogynistic, homophobic or culturally inappropriate. It’s a cancer that has metastasized.

  21. The majority of women just don’t want to do certain things in life. Just like there are many things the majority of men don’t want to do in life.

    Along comes a woman that does want to do what most women don’t want to do, and she looks around and does not see women like her being involved in what she wants to be doing.

    So she writes a narrative as to how it is someone else’s fault that there are not more women doing what she is doing.

  22. Wow – so many hissy-fit comments. Why?

    There is a clear difference in interest in aviation between the sexes. Theoretically, it could be something genetic. But at least part of the reason young women don’t pursue aviation careers is that they are given the impression that women are a “new thing” in aviation. Few people – men or women – actually want to be the first to do something. Young men don’t get that message; they feel they are going down a well-trodden, comfortable path. It seems to me that Ms. Goyer is right, that the “you’ll be first” message could contribute to the difference in interest.

    Just a few years ago I was talking about flying with a colleague and for some long-forgotten reason I mentioned someone who was an airline pilot and also a woman. My colleague – a graduate in her early 20s – was surprised: “women can be commercial pilots?” Her answer astonished me. Having grown up in the 70s, that wasn’t even a question: the battle had been fought and settled; yes, Virginia, they can.

    Wikipedia pages like the ones for Jeanne Labrosse (first woman to fly solo, in 1798, and first woman skydiver, in 1799), Raymonde de Laroche (first female commercial pilot, 1909, more than a century ago) and Timeline of Women in Aviation, turned out to be a revelation to her.

    As we talked, it became clear to both of us that the message communicated to her and other girls and young women – by both feminists and traditionalists – in the last 20+ years has been “male-dominated fields exist because of sexism, and if you try to enter one your life will be hard”.

    Sexism is one of those things that looks huge and is everywhere, when you’re the victim of a few sexists; and looks rare and easily ignored when you’re not. And, sexism or not, it’s true that going “against stereotype” is hard, whether as a man in nursing (a running joke in the Meet The Parents movie series) or a woman in aviation – or software development. People harass you and question your decisions, often covering their disapproval with expressions of concern. People are weirdly threatened. Men engage in outright verbal aggression (and sometimes worse); women become “mean girls”. None of that is right, and it’s good to tell people to knock it the F off.

    Still, if we want people to feel they can do something, we can’t keep telling them that the deck is stacked against them, that they’ll have to be the first, that it will be hard. Telling girls of the long history of women in aviation (and software engineering – Ada Lovelace, take another bow), including heroes and innovators and regular people doing a professional job, would be a good start – as Ms. Goyer proposes. And yes, it’s a bit weird that Amelia Earhart is more celebrated than Jackie Cochrane – but I’ll leave that for another day.

  23. I heard about this amazing woman instructor from a high school teacher when I was a junior, so when summer rolled around I drove out to this general aviation airport in Grapevine Texas to look her up and see if she would take me on as a student pilot. At the time I met her she was 73 years young and still flying a full flight schedule, she was straight up with me and said she doesn’t usually take on very many male students and that she would put me with one of her male instructors, she said when I was ready to solo at that point she would determine whether to take me on as on of her personal students. Well after about 8 hours I was ready for solo and she went up with me to check me out, she allowed me to solo and took me on as a student. I finished my private pilot training that summer and passed my check ride. What an amazing instructor, pilot, and woman she was. I went to her for her experience and reputation not because she was a woman but that was kind of kool in my book. One of the things I love about aviation is it is a great equalizer, everyone starts at hour one!

  24. First, the outpouring of overt hostility (by men, of course) towards this article makes the author’s point more fully than anything she could have possibly written. The irony is extraordinary.

    Second, who knew that pilots were so well versed in the evolution of gender-based behavior? The expertise (among pilots, no less) in the genetic basis of career choices is nothing short of breathtaking.

  25. Youngest Black female pilot in New York gets license
    By Justine Re Staten Island
    PUBLISHED 9:25 PM ET Feb. 26, 2024
    Seventeen-year-old Kamora Freeland made history. She got her private pilot’s license — making her the youngest African American female to get the license in New York state.

    Kamora Freeland, 17, started flying after being awarded a scholarship in 2022.

    Freeland flies on Long Island, New York.

    She passed her private pilot’s license check ride on Monday.

    Her goal is to eventually work as a pilot for a commercial airline.

    “I feel amazing — it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I feel like in a few days, I’m going to process everything,” Freeland said.

    After getting awarded a scholarship in 2022, she started flying at Republic Airport on Long Island.

    “I never thought about becoming a pilot, so I was like, ‘OK, that’s cool.’ But I went on the flight, and I said, ‘I love this,’” Freeland said.

    The Staten Islander and senior who attends Kingsboro Early College Secondary school drives two hours multiple times a week with her mother to practice flying on Long Island.

    Freeland scheduled the test to coincide with her 17th birthday.

    She’s been so busy she hasn’t even touched her birthday presents from Feb. 22.

    Freeland showed NY1 a go-pro camera she got for her birthday that she said she will use to record in the cockpit.

    She got her private pilot’s license before her driver’s license because she just hasn’t had the time.

    “Its kind of all happened at the same time,” Freeland said.

    She said she’s been too busy studying in the past to become a pilot.

    Initially, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to complete the test this past Monday.

    When she got there, the wind conditions caused a delay. Thankfully the winds died down.

    “It was very nerve-wracking especially when the flight part portion got delayed due to weather. I was sitting in the car for hours,” Freeland said.

    Weather, or any other roadblocks, won’t stop her she says.

    Freeman’s end goal is to fly for a commercial airline.

    “The sky is not the limit. Go for it and keep going,” Freeland said.

    She told NY1 she can’t wait to relax and catch up on sleep. She plans to study economics in college.

    • Great example of a scholarship and an opportunity being given, resulting in kindling an interest in someone who previously hadn’t thought about aviation as an option. This is exactly the power of initiatives like this.