What does Women in Aviation International (WAI) set out to achieve?
Women in Aviation in Nigeria, particularly the Glowing Wings chapter which I am President, is an offshoot of Women in Aviation International, we are just a chapter of the international body. Women in Aviation International (WAI) provides a platform to encourage women excel in aviation. Like we know aviation is a sector that is predominantly male and WAI tries to get as many women interested in taking aviation as a career. So that is what WAI is about. Talking about Nigeria, you know that a typical Nigerian female child grows up with little dreams of excelling in male dominated jobs like being doctors, scientists. Nobody cares about a woman going into the world of science, they see it as a man’s field but here we are trying to get the female child interested in aviation and in doing so we want to tell you that gone are those days when you have women only as fashion designers, nurses, teachers and all that.
But now women are in everything. For instance, we have a lot of female pilots now; we have an all-female crew flight but in the past we had women only as cabin attendants, not technical people like pilots and engineers.
Previously they were there to serve food in the aircraft; that is no longer the case. We have now taken the mantle of leadership even in aviation. In aviation now, we have female chief executives, female directors, a female CEO in Bi-Courtney which is a privately operated airport and that is quite phenomenal. We have women in very top positions in aviation now and at Nigeria Glowing Wing, we are trying to make young girls pick up interest in aviation as early as secondary school and that is what made us launch the Girls in Aviation Day recently.
Are there factors responsible for the low participation of women in aviation?
In Nigerian aviation, the first factor that militates against women participation is culture. The cultural barrier is a no-go area for women. Remember aviation is a highflying sector. In aviation, you get to see the world; you can’t be in aviation and be restricted to your kitchen or your home. Once in aviation, you become global, but in those days, women were seen as domesticated people who must be at home to take care of the home front; cook would meet many people, go abroad and so on.
Because women want to be good wives, they would say, ‘I don’t want to work in aviation because my husband would not allow me to’. All this is tied to culture.
Finances are another issue, it costs so much to be in aviation in terms of training and if you are not able to get financial support to be trained, no matter the aspect of the aviation, you would jettison the idea. But those factors were in the past. I can tell you that now, some of us are getting sponsorship even from WAI International.
Tell us about your experience in the aviation sector?
I have not worked anywhere in my life but in aviation. I eat aviation, dream aviation, sleep aviation and that’s because when I left the university, the first place I got a job was in aviation, that’s Nigeria Airports Authority of those days which metamorphosed into the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and here I am now in the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). So my experience has been beautiful, I can’t have it any other way. If I didn’t enjoy my job in aviation, I would have probably left earlier than now. Yes, it might not be the best paying job, it comes with a lot of fun; flying is fun. Like I keep saying, I am hoping that one day I would be a pilot. It is never too late because I see older people when we go for conferences who come to tell stories of how they started flying at age 70 or 55.
How do you combine the home front with your profession?
I will like to say that first of all, it is by the grace of God because in anything you do, if you don’t have his grace, you would not pull through. God’s grace sustained me. I am happily married with beautiful children and even with the challenges because I have to come to work at odd hours; I have a husband who has been able to understand. First and foremost he is an aviator, I met him in the industry. So he understands the challenges of the job. Over time, our children have come to understand that, ‘oh, mummy has to be at a certain place at a certain time’. Another thing is about planning. In any situation, you need to plan, don’t let any front suffer.
The time I spend with my children outside work, I make the most of it; the time I have with my spouse outside work, I make the most of it. When I am at home, home is home; even if it is just two hours at home, we make the best use of it. We do all the dancing, we do all the TV