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  • Mattie Bohanan

History Doesn't Have to Repeat

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

During my time as a student in my collegiate aviation program, I became an ambassador for our flight school. I got many comments about being a woman aspiring to make a career in aviation. Nothing bad; they were all supportive comments and served as confidence boosters. (Now, that’s not to say that I wish seeing a female in aviation didn’t even warrant any special recognition but that’s for another day).

Mattie is standing next to a C-172 with Auburn University logo

One comment during my 3 years doing tours of our aviation facilities to prospective students stood out to me. The comment came from the dad of a daughter who was interested in becoming a pilot. He raised his hand and asked, “how can my daughter expect to be a pilot and do her duties as a mother?” You could have heard a penny drop in the room. Everyone who was touring turned to me and my other female counterpart with their eyes and mouths wide open.

I was taken back at first. The other female ambassador and I answered with the narrative that others had engrained in us – the one where “you just have to be flexible and make it work.” I dismissed the father as just being old fashioned and stereotypical, and the situation was over quickly.

After reflecting on this interaction, I became mortified at the realization that he does have a point. He didn’t mean the question in a sexist manner that meant “a woman’s job is to be a mom.” He meant it as a genuine question because there are women who want to be a mom and a pilot, and it is okay to want to be both. The mere fact that he had to ask that question shows how the industry does not make it easy to be a primary caregiver.

My female counterpart and I were doing two things by answering that we were going to “make it work.” We were envisioning that it only took a few relatively easy sacrifices (which is not the reality), and we were accepting the industry for how it is rather than challenging the industry to do better.

We answered with that answer because we thought we had no other choice. Everyone who was older and “wiser” (and who had significant others with careers that condoned taking care of children) told us to just deal with it, and we didn’t question it. Now, it is time to question it and pave the pathway for caregivers in our industry.

It’s time to encourage females that want a family to become pilots. It’s time to give mothers opportunities to voice their recommendations on how their companies become an ally. It’s time to normalize the idea of running a household and being a pilot simultaneously rather than the traditional mindset of career first then family.

Together, we can make the industry a place for primary caregivers to thrive.

Mattie is a CFII at Auburn University, where she recently graduated with a degree in Professional Flight. She enjoys drinking her morning coffee, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. Mattie is looking forward to a successful and fulfilling career as a professional pilot whether it be in the business aviation industry or the airline industry.

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