#LastWeek Women in Africa take aviation to higher heights

Last week the social media was abuzz with images of women in in full aviation gear standing inside their office  (what we know as an aeroplane) with a message of a certain airline having an all-woman flight deck crew.

Coincidentally, Air Zimbabwe and Ethiopian Airlines chose to break barriers by creating an all-woman flight deck crew. With Air Zimbabwe’s flight between Harare and Victoria falls, and Ethiopian airlines flight to Bangkok, it was a first for both aviation companies to break sexist bonds in having women fly and host in a plane. Captains of the Air Zimbabwe flight and Ethiopian Airlines plane Chipo Matimba, Elizabeth Petros, Zengnea Abdela and Salem Vagonaj  effectively voyaged from destined areas to arrival while flight attendants kept their service delivery up to high standards.

The women-only flight crew extended to flight ramp operations as well as flight dispatchers on the ground, according to their respective press releases. Ethiopian Airlines added that they aim in empowering women and encouraging the African Woman to pursue aviation careers.

Notably, as this is a form of destigmatizing genderfied roles in the workplace, the largest stigma that needs to be addressed is that of the passenger. With the institutionalized belief of gender roles being implanted in careers, people do not believe women should be pilots. Online, comments circulate on how the women pilots must ‘be careful’ when flying, some furthermore stated that they are happy but it mustn’t be a common culture, because flying a plane is simply “a man’s job”.

With this current sexist perception that we carry, the only way to break down the stigma is to normalize women inclusion in male dominated industries – by seeing their presence in the workplace constantly, and not particularly set on special occasions. With these two airlines in Africa breaking ground, we can hope that they influence more national and private airlines across the continent.