Sunday 20 June 2010

High flying women - Role Models I know

Last Friday was the first time (in 5 decades) that my flight was flown by a woman. And it was a surprise to feel surprised, because between a third and half of my business contacts are women.

Whilst gender segregation in occupations does still exist, with stereotyping current even in preschool children (GENDER EQUALITY IN ACTION), equality legislation has at least made entry into all occupations possible. The key change is the self confidence and belief of girls and young women that they are equally, if not more, capable to do anything they put their minds to!

Indeed, both the decorator/painter in the Gold Leaf Hotel in Zuffenhausen and the Air Berlin co-pilot expressed surprise at the concept of being positive role models. Yet Dr Linda Papadopoulos' study in 2010 for the Home Office on The Sexualisation of Young People suggested that positive role models were particularly required for both genders at this time, especially with the media & music trends to apparently diminishing the role and respect for women, reversing equality gains made over the past century.

Furthermore, equality is currently still the prerogative of women in a restricted number of countries (see the suffrage link below) and we in the west should remember that, even just a century ago, women had few rights themselves let alone the vote. If seen walking unaccompanied in Victorian London or US cities they would be approached by men on the immediate assumption they were streetwalkers (i.e. were immoral, available for sex etc.) - perhaps a corollary of the fact that practically the only way a woman could become an independent high earner was as a courtesan (from SuperFreakonomics by Levitt & Dubner).

So here is my contribution and celebration of progress to date, in the form of just a small selection of female role models that I know and admire professionally or whom I have encountered as fore-runners into previously gender segregated occupations!

Some interesting links are:
Women in Aviation - Organisation
Timeline for Women in Aviation - starts in 1784!
Women in Rural Enterprise - a network
Women in Science and Engineering & Construction
Women in Business Network - franchise
Women's suffrage or rights to equality and voting by country
Womens liberation from early beginnings to the current 3rd wave
Women's status in the 19th Century

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