Happy International Women's Day!
You might be thinking to yourself, what in the world is International Women's Day? Have I missed that section of the greeting card shop? Unless you count e-cards, the answer to the second question is no - unfortunately, for the card industry you might say.
International Women's Day is one that I hold close to my heart, and I am only one of many, as it has been observed since the early 1900's. Originally a socialist movement, the day has grown to become a special day where thousands of events occur worldwide to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. The purpose of these events is to inspire and celebrate women, and I feel, particularly to inspire young women. Showing them that they can achieve whatever they want.
I am very proud of the fact that I have been actively participating in this day for many years, and will hopefully be doing my small part today by joining forces with the London Wing of the Royal Air Force Cadets to hopefully inspire their interest in aviation with young female members. I invited them to come to London City airport and visit with our female crew members and explore one of our aircraft. Hopefully, they'll leave knowing that they can pursue a career in any aspect of aviation, from flying to engineering - as there is still a dominant gender gap in the industry. To be fair, this gap has narrowed somewhat since I began my career.
When I look back at my first 'official' job, I was possibly the first woman working in an airplane hangar that wasn't a secretary. I was one of the managers in the hangar that was dedicated to servicing the Air France Airbus and Concorde fleet. I was lucky enough that this was my first job, but it was something I was driven to work incredibly hard for - earning two Master's degrees, in Business followed by Aeronautics. This drive was an ethic I was taught by both of my parents.
Growing up with my sisters, in rural southern France, we were never told we couldn't achieve something because we were women. Instead, my father and mother pushed us to be independent and ambitious. They wanted to make sure that we would have the educational opportunities that they never had, as a self-made businessman and a young, single-mother ex-pat emigrating back to France. They pushed us so that we would have the freedom to choose our career paths in life.
My education, particularly my degree in Aeronautics is what has helped my career trajectory in aviation, and my parents, particularly my father pushed me to go in to engineering. Considering the time - mid 80's - and place - France - this is something I may have not had the appreciation for at the time but I do now. Engineering, a field that is rife for a variety of careers, is still only 10-15% represented by females in the educational programmes.
Not only was my father encouraging us to continually do our best and push ourselves, but my mother always made sure that we knew to never rely on anybody for our financial situation. The first condition of life was always that we should be able to live on our own and not have to worry about money. This advice was particularly personal to her stemming from her own first-hand struggles as a young, divorced, single-mother before meeting my father. This is something I know single-mothers are still dealing with today.
I cannot express how much these values have helped form and push my drive, the drive that has led me to reach the goals thus far in my career.
Looking back, I'm proud to see that today, opportunities for women are steadily increasing. I'm privileged to be in a position where I can encourage more women to consider aviation as a worthwhile and exciting career. Saying this, there are still very few women in executive-level positions in the industry. I am only one of 15 female CEO's out of 200 in commercial aviation. Knowing many of them firsthand, I can say that they are all leaving their inspiring mark in the industry.
This is why I appreciate International Women's Day as much as I do - it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the opportunities open to women and the great progress which has been made in recent times to bring balance back to the workplace. And I have the opportunity to show the next generation that there aren't any boundaries to what they might want to achieve.
My advice to women today is to go out and grab every opportunity with both hands, so let's show the world what today's women in aviation are doing and encourage the future generation to follow in our footsteps.