International Women's Day is held every March to celebrate the achievements of women and to raise awareness about gender equality. This year Bristol Groundschool is shining a spotlight on their female students who aspire to soar high above the clouds as pilots.
Despite the fact that women have been flying planes for over a century, they are still under-represented in the aviation industry. According to data from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, women make up just 4.7% of commercial pilots in the UK.
Since 1992, Bristol Groundschool has seen hundreds of women study to become pilots including those who have won scholarships with the British Women Pilots’ Association (BWPA).
Steph Smith is one such student who won the 2022 BWPA Bristol Groundschool scholarship and is now studying for her ATPL exams. When asked what advice she would give other women looking to become pilots, Smith said: “Visit your local airfield or flying club and ask lots of questions, then consider joining an organisation like the British Women Pilots’ Association. They offer support and guidance, scholarships and the opportunity to make friends with pilots of all ages, types of flying and stages of their aviation journey. The BWPA has offered me invaluable experiences and supported me with a BWPA Easy PPL Ground School Scholarship in 2020 and then a BWPA Bristol Groundschool ATPL Scholarship in 2022.”
Daisy Bing is currently studying her ATPL theory with Bristol Groundschool and was inspired by her family to pursue a career in aviation. She said “ I'm lucky enough to be from an aviation family; my grandfather was a Search and Rescue rotary pilot in the RAF (Royal Air Force), and both of my parents are Cabin Crew, so I've grown up surrounded by flying and doing a lot of travelling.”
When asked about her plans for the future and her advice for other women looking to become pilots, Daisy said “I'd love to fly for a major airline and fly as many types of aircraft as possible. I'd also love to do some more work with aviation charities, without which I wouldn't be in the position I am in today. I'd specifically like to work to promote women in aviation.
“Becoming a pilot is expensive and it often feels out of reach and simply impossible for a lot of people - I'd say to always apply for all the scholarships and bursaries on offer. Go to your local airport and talk to pilots, and don't be scared to reach out to pilots online, as most will be happy to offer their advice. Try to get some work experience within the aviation industry, as this will help you massively throughout your career.
“Whilst sometimes the thought of entering a male-dominated industry can be intimidating, don't let this put you off. The support I've received in this community really is amazing, and I know I've made some friends for life.”