Smashing Through the Glass Ceiling Straight to the Skies

What better time to reflect on women's contributions to aviation than Women's History Month? From the earliest days of aviation, women have played crucial roles in pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

The story began in the early 20th century, when the Wright Brothers' groundbreaking invention captivated the world. In 1910, just seven years after the first powered flight, French aviator Baroness Raymonde de Laroche became the first woman in the world to earn a pilot's license. Her daring feat was followed by Harriet Quimby, who in 1911 became the first woman to earn a pilot's license in the United States. These trailblazers set the stage for one of the most famous women in aviation history. 

In 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Her groundbreaking achievement paved the way for other women to follow in her footsteps. While Earhart’s accomplishments still serve as an inspiration nearly a century later, her disappearance while attempting to fly around the world in 1937 is a stark reminder of the risks that pilots face and the challenges women in aviation have had to overcome. 

Despite challenges, women continue to make significant contributions to and break down barriers in aviation. More women than ever are seeking careers as air traffic controllers, aviation mechanics, and aerospace engineers. While progress has been made to increase the numbers of women in aviation careers, there is still a long way to go. 

According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, only 5.2 percent of airline pilots worldwide are women. Women are still underrepresented in many areas of aviation and continue to face barriers that their male counterparts do not. Organizations like Women in Aviation International, ISA +21, the Ninety-Nines, Female Aviators Sticking Together, Sisters of the Skies, and others work to advance women across the aviation industry and shape the future of aviation as diverse and inclusive.

For Women's History Month, we celebrate women's contributions to our industry and our profession. As a union representing more than 69,000 airline pilots, we are working to create a more inclusive and diverse profession to ensure that the legacies of these pioneering women live on. Future generations of women pilots will continue to break down barriers and push the boundaries. By supporting women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields; promoting diversity and inclusion in the aviation industry; and honoring the legacy of pioneering women aviators, we can create a world where all individuals have the opportunity to soar to new heights.

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