Women in Aviation

The world is currently going through the Millennium Pilot shortage, which has enhanced since the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2020. 

Pilots have been needed since the creation of planes and shortages of them have always existed. But because of the COVID-19 worldwide shutdown, many pilots decided to retire early, or have lost their jobs. Even though life has returned to normal, pilot shortages are still in effect. 

The Regional Airline Association announced that around 50 percent of the current Air Force personnel will have to retire within the next 15 years. 

Lewis started as an aviation school for men, more than 90 years ago. Since then, the program has developed into one of the best in the country and has also allowed women to enter.

One of these women is Jenna Cipriani, a student who transcended into becoming a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) for the university’s flight department.

The reason why Cipriani decided to pursue her career as a pilot was because her father was a jet mechanic who worked for the Air Force. Growing up, she was surrounded by an environment that later on helped her find her passion. 

When asked what is the most challenging part of working in a male dominated field, Cipriani said, “Most of the girls that I am surrounded with, have a lot of confidence issues when it comes to being ready for exams and their check ride.”

Cipriani started her journey as a pilot in 5 years ago when she was still in high school.

“I did a high school program with one of my friends that is also a pilot. It was to show that women can be either a pilot or a flight attendant and a lot of girls will come up to the desk and say they would love to be a flight attendant.” Cipriani went on to explain that for her that was weird and asked why they would not go for pilot, to which they responded, “I couldn’t do that because it’s a lot of math.” 

Cipriani goes on to say that “the field, a male-dominated profession, tends to not take women seriously when they act as stereotypical females.” 

Another struggle Cipriani has experienced within the aviation workplace is men telling her she needs to smile more. 

Currently, less than 20 percent of women are in the aviation field. At Lewis, female aviation majors are trying to make an impact in the field with the Women in Aviation club. The club provides opportunities for networking in the aviation field throughout the Chicago-land area as well as offering professional workshops, scholarships and internships. The club attends the annual Women in Aviation International Conference to participate in global discussions about aviation. There is hope to increase female participation in aviation in the future.  

Women struggle in all fields, but with less than 20 percent of the Air Force being females, it makes it harder for them to strive. Thankfully the university provides support to women in aviation, helping them achieve their goals. 

Graphic Credits: Olivia Brzek

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