In an age when women were “seen and not heard” or even given any credence of humanity and equality, never mind the right to vote, stories like this made history. Back in the early days of aviation, women pilots were few and far between. Whoever surmounted personal hardships and harsh living conditions to follow their dreams were ignored and denied recognition at every turn.

Then one young woman rose from humble beginnings and overcame almost insurmountable obstacles to become the first Black & Native American woman to achieve her pilot’s license.

Her name was Bessie Coleman. Bessie’s story is one that is all too familiar to people of color and especially significant for a woman of mixed heritage. Bessie overcame all the obstacles in her path, even traveling to France to achieve her pilot’s license! All because no flight school in America would enroll a woman of color in their flight training program!

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman

This article is not about the Bessie Coleman story, which in itself is an outstanding achievement, but to shine a light on the injustices that still exist today that deny women of color an equal opportunity in the world of Aviation.  In 2000, Bessie was inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame!

What this article is about, however, is to share with you an important project that I am working on in collaboration with the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) through their STEM program.

As a retired commercial pilot, I am appalled at the inequities that still exist in the Aviation Industry and the Military for women pilots today. The statistics are shocking. In the commercial airline industry, only five-point six percent (5.6%) of pilots are women. In the Military, that number is no better at six-point two percent (6.2%) of the Air Force’s 12,349 pilots!

There is a need to change these statistics through diversity hiring and opening doors to more young women, especially to those women of color that have been marginalized.

The program Women In Aviationis focused on generating interest in girls and young women to seek opportunities in the exciting Aviation industry and prepare them for the educational steps necessary to make this a career choice.

The TV program, produced by the Capital Media Group of Wellington, Florida, will be aired on public television stations to over 73,000 public schools across the country in 30-minute episodes.

Stay tuned for additional articles on the mission of this AMWA program. This non-profit educational initiative is well worth the participation of organizations and institutions that promote and uphold the concept of equality for all women of color in underrepresented communities across the country.

I invite your comments and feedback to help make this program a success.

Dave Rohee
Retired Airline Pilot