By Bibi Khatoon
Over the years, it has not been easy for women to break barriers in the world of work –those who lived it would tell – and according to the 2017 Global Gender Gap report, significant gender inequality persists in the workforce and in politics.
One of the industries which is often said to be male-dominated is the Aviation industry. On Tuesday evening, a number of women shared their experiences in the industry –from being told that it’s a waste of time to showing determination and landing jobs ranging from pilots to aviation mechanics.
They were given the opportunity via a panel discussion organised by the Women in Aviation organization at the University of Guyana’s Education Lecture Theater ahead of International Women’s Day which is being observed today under the theme ‘Press for Progress.
One of the persons who shared her experiences was Captain Claudia McDonald Brown who currently works with Trans Guyana Airways.
She recalled that “historically the males would say ‘oh it’s too dangerous for a woman to do’ and ‘why do you want to fly, what do you even know about flying or mechanics or engineering?”.
Captain McDonald Brown related that her love for the field grew from a young age as her father’s job required her family travelling across the interior regions.
Soon after leaving school, she began in the industry as a flight attendant with LIAT Airlines. On her off-days, she related that she would take short flight lessons from the airline’s pilots where her interest grew. Eventually, she left for flight school in the United States and returned to Guyana where she commenced working with Guyana Airways.
“I came back to Guyana, I applied to Guyana Airways and that’s where I started my career flying the skylander. When they closed, I found myself at Turks and Caicos Airways, then I went onto St Lucia Ezee Express and Air Jamaica Express.”
Though she was forced to take a hiatus from flying for a period of eight years after her mother fell ill, Captain McDonald Brown is back in the industry and as she says “is having fun.”
Another female who shared her experience was Head of the Aerodromes/ Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Department of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Christine Marcus.
She related “when I was at Engineering school, a fellow colleague mentioned to me that I wasting my parents money and I should go home and polish my nails.” Jokingly she added, “well he was right, my nails really did need a polish.”
There are other aspects of the industry, she explained, so persons do not always have to work towards becoming a pilot. Marcus encouraged women to take up using drones to solve various problems faced in the country.
“It is predicted that of the total US$100B likely to be spent on the military and civilian drones by 2020, the commercial segment will be the fastest growing. I want to encourage you to learn about this technology, get involved, see how we can utilize it,” she told those gathered at the Education Lecture Theater. Drones are currently being used to monitor mangroves on Guyana’s coast and also protect lands in Amerindian villages.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme “Press for Progress” emphasizes the strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity.