Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Challenges Of Being A Female Pilot In The Nigerian Aviation Industry

From Nairland.com: The Challenges Of Being A Female Pilot In The Nigerian Aviation Industry
Nigeria’s Aviation industry is still a male dominated world. Though over the past few decades, the female presence in the airline industry has been on the increase, by comparison, women still have a paltry presence. According to data compiled by Women in Aviation international (www.wai.com) women represent 6% of the pilot population.

In Nigeria this is no exception.

Aero Contractors (www.flyaero.com) prides itself in its contribution to the development of aviation expertise inNigeria as a whole, but in particular in the support of female involvement. Aero has 101 pilots (as at October 29 2011) in total and 13 of them are female. This is a percentage of just under 13, which is more than double the industry average.

In 2009, Aero, a Nigerian airline, became the first airline inAfricato operate a flight with an all female cockpit and cabin crew.

What are the challenges that cause barriers to entry into aviation (particularly the cockpit) for women inNigeria? This is an Aeros female pilot’s account.

Several factors determine what kind of challenges a female pilot would have. One of the main ones would be what part of the world she is flying, mindset of the populace or tradition. In the developed world, a female captain probably wouldn’t attract too much attention if passengers sighted her while boarding an aircraft. But in Africa, orNigeriaspecifically where I fly, she would definitely get a second look, and yes, believe it or not a consideration of returning to the departure hall and getting on a different flight ostensibly owing to the lack of confidence of having a woman in command.

Don’t get me wrong, over the years; I believe it has become more acceptable to see women on the flight deck. A few ‘more traditional thinking’ men may still have reservations about being at the mercy of a ‘mere’ woman while being flown in this very sophisticated equipment over several hundreds of miles. Some folks console themselves by believing she is just a ‘co-pilot’ and doesn’t really fly the plane. (She couldn’t possibly have an idea how to, not with all those buttons and switches).

Well, in all fairness, I have received several encouraging and pleasant remarks from Nigerian passengers, mostly women though!

Another factor that would probably cause any challenges to a female pilot in the Nigerian airline industry has to do with physiological issues which affect every female, regardless of geographical location. If you’re single, unlike men, there’s always the ‘biological clock’ factor and the conflict between your career and settling down. The social pressure is massive. In our society, the woman is reminded that it is hard enough locating your ‘soul mate’ let alone worrying if he’ll be supportive of your profession. If you’re married, sooner or later, you get pregnant and you can’t fly for too long after that sometimes for about a whole year. I mean, there’s nothing as joyful as having a baby! But it does slow down your career quite significantly.

Personally speaking, I wouldn’t say the challenges outweigh the pros of me being female pilot. I’m married to a pilot and this works perfectly for me. They say pilots talk about flying a lot. It’s true, it never gets boring, no two days are really the same and usually I can’t wait to get home and tell him about some weird escapade and vice versa ( be at peace, pilots don’t take passengers up and hunt escapades). I also have a 3 year old and another on the way, which means I’ll have to stop flying soon.

Every job has its challenges to women as well as to men I guess, but trust me, there’s very few jobs I’d swap mine for.

Violet Enahoro, is a female pilot with Aero Contractors company of Nigeria Limited (www.flyaero.com)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

violet Enahoro is my aunt