The condescending boss, the mansplainer, the one who gets a little too handsy: these are a few of many “personalities” women are not-so pleasantly greeted with in work settings. These issues become magnified when a woman chooses to pursue a male-dominated field, which, according to Catalyst, introduces “unfavorable environments” for women to excel. Aviation is notoriously one of the most male-dominated fields. According to Pilot Institute, 9.02% of licensed pilots are women, and this number drops for non-student pilots, as only 6.03% of regional airline pilots are women. Cassidy Farias, a flight instructor at North-Aire Aviation, shares the challenges she’s faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry, how she has worked to overcome these challenges, and what changes she believes needs to be made for women in the workforce.
Challenges for women in male-dominated fields can come in big or small ways, on a daily basis or occasionally. Regardless of the challenge’s severity, according to Forbes, some of the most common are a lack of emotional and financial support, being treated as incompetent, verbal and physical mistreatment, and a lack of opportunities. Farias describes “assumptions” people have made about her capabilities and knowledge in piloting to be the greatest ongoing challenge she faces. In a particularly appalling instance, Farias states that “One of the worst things I have been told to my face was that I am destined to get pregnant young and ruin my career.”
Although being a woman in a male-dominated field presents many challenges, Farias and many other women across the globe prove that it is never impossible. According to The Everygirl, these challenges can be mitigated by speaking up, cultivating a support system of women and men, and remaining confident in your skillset and knowledge. Farias shares how she deals with external discouragement: “The biggest way I overcome challenges is to treat them as an actual challenge. I want to prove people wrong, and I use any negative words as encouragement to keep going.”
Fortunately, according to Catalyst, female representation in male-dominated fields is becoming more common; “Between 2016 and 2018, women’s employment increased by 5.0% in industries consisting of two-thirds men.” This change has become prevalent as efforts rise in creating more inclusive work environments for women. However, challenges remain, as gender gaps are a continuous problem for women in male-dominated fields. According to Farias, having more female mentors and increasing female pilot representation are some changes that need to be made in the field of aviation. “In the aviation industry, it is important for young girls to be able to see themselves in the people who are currently working in their future career. This has to happen in media, in movies, and in the industry itself,” she states.
Challenges in the workforce remain relevant beyond the field of aviation and can transpire in all industries where a woman may feel “small,” including, finance, construction, STEM fields, and leadership roles in politics. As many women across history have proven time-and-time again, gender does not define a person’s work ethic, capabilities, skillset, or knowledge in their chosen field. Their drive, dedication, and hard work is ultimately what determines their impact in the workforce and beyond.