Today has been a “catch-up” day. There have been numerous items on my desk and on my “to-do” list. One of the tasks at hand was to complete my review of the 21 flyGIRL scholarship applicant narratives and letters of recommendation. Admittedly, when the final count of 21 applications came in, I was extremely excited that so many women were taking advantage of this scholarship opportunity. At first, there was concern that maybe there weren’t as many women interested in aviation as I’d thought. Thankfully, there are! After reading about the first two applicants in the stack, a pit formed in my stomach. How will I be able to choose one winner? How will I be able to turn down any of these women?
Common Theme: Early Exposure
There is a common theme among most of the applicants: exposure to flying and a love of aviation from an early age. There are many who come from a family of aviation, like myself. When you’re exposed to something at a young age, it has an impact on you. This may be because we are soaking up so much information during these early, formative years. We are taking mental notes constantly and observe what makes those around us radiate. For me, it was obvious early on that my father loved flying in the Navy. He was extremely proud wearing his Naval uniform. He enjoyed discussing his aviation career with his family and friends from his childhood.
My uncle showed his passion for flying by sharing it with others. Interestingly, not many would take him up on his offers of flight. Maybe I did because my father was a pilot and I felt drawn to do something that he enjoyed. There are things we say “yes” to simply because we want to participate in similar things that others in our lives experience. We want to understand one another and have connections.
Common Theme: Perseverance
The noticeable, second common theme is the perseverance these women have for reaching their goals. The age range of applicants varies significantly. This is encouraging. Young women are already planning their future, forging their path, making a plan. Some of the older applicants are starting a new dream or still working on completing a dream they’ve had since they were young. They’re each advancing ahead, determined to do what it takes to reach that important goal. Most people know that planning for study time takes discipline. When it comes to the financial budgeting required to pay for flying time, it can be disheartening. Students can go weeks without being able to rent a plane, pay for an instructor and fill the planes gas tanks. Most of the applicants have experienced all kinds of financial frustrations and personal set-backs but yet continue to press forward, looking to the end goal.
Common Theme: New Found Confidence
During a recent interview, before receiving the scholarship applications, I was asked why more women don’t pursue aviation. Answering for the entire female population is a huge responsibility! For myself, a lack of confidence during my early college years, led me to believe that many things were unattainable, including aviation. I thought: Aren’t pilots somewhere near the genius IQ level…? 🤓 (believe me, if I could go back in time and shake myself!)…
After reading through the first few scholarship applications, the lack of confidence some women experience became the third common theme. More than half of the women originally felt they didn’t have what it took to be a pilot. They pursued other careers they felt would be easier or more suitable. Realizing after some time and maturity, that they were actually competent enough, they have renewed old dreams. To me, this demonstrates why there are many more male pilots. Men are more confident. That could be because of how men are treated when they’re growing up or it could be just inherent. Blaming men for the gender gap in aviation is unproductive. Maybe…it’s just the way we are each created. Gasp! Maybe women’s confidence peaks at a later time in life. So what? That’s why we can’t give up on our dreams at a certain age or stage in life!! There’s always time to strive for an old dream or create a new dream.
The flyGIRL scholarship applicants each have an impressive story and attainable dreams. I wholeheartedly believe in each and every one of them and know that their future is full of exciting things to come! For me to be able to help one of them this year is a great honor.