Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Average Whirly-Girl

I'm reading Ladybirds: The Untold Story of Women Pilots in America, by Henry M. Holden with Captain Lori Griffith. It was first published in 1991.

It's an interesting book, that is running through the list of women pilots. It gives a page or two for the most famous pilots, down to a single paragraph for others. For all this brevity, it is interesting, and thanks to the evolution of technology, now, 15 years later, it's easy to do further research on each of these pilots and learn more about them.

But what struck my eye when I got to the chapter on the Whirly-Girls (helicopter pilots, as opposed to fixed-wing aircraft pilots) was this:

In 1988, Whirly-Girl Enid C. Kasper did a scientific survey of women helicopter pilots - the first that any organization had ever done. Kasper's results showed that:

Average age: 42
Married: 42%
White: 92% [author Holden uses the term Anglo, but I presume he means white]
College graduates: 41%
Master's Degree: 20%
First-born child: 47%
Age for 1st pilot's license: Between 17 and 27
Helicopter rating earned after the age of 40: 7%

Discpline helped them in other areas of their lives: 53%
Wanting to fly because of a profound interest: 47%
Flying because of the challenging environment: 21%

Encounter sexism on occasion: 46%
Encounter sexism often: 20%
Non-flying Men friends who found their work intimidating: 17%
Non-flying male friends supportive and fascinated: 78%

Have fear of heights otherwise: 50%
Positive self-image: 49%

Holden doesn't give the details of this survey - how many women participated. That is something I would dearly love to know. Are these answers representative of 40 women, or 400? In 1991, there were not all that many women helicopter pilots, and of any group surveyed (depending on how its done) only 10%, or even less, ever take the survey.

So without knowing how many women took the survey, I find the conclusions to be only "guidelies" rather than truly instructive, but that statistic, only 49% of women helicopter pilots have a positive self image, very depressing.

Because of course that is representative of women over-all. Most women, no matter how beatiful they are, are always obsessed about their appearance and don't think they look good. What's the percentage of boyfriends or husbands, for example, who have been asked the question, "Does this make me look fat?" [Truth to tell, I can't imagine a woman ever asking her boyfriend or hubby that, but it's a cliche so I guess it must happen a lot].

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