Gender equality has come a long way since the time when women were locked out of the workforce, and the autonomy that comes with having an income.
Slow but steady progress has seen more women liberated to diversify their career paths from fields traditionally seen as ‘feminine’, like nursing and childcare, but work remains to be done.
Despite persistent stereotypes about what constitutes a ‘suitable’ career path for women, many are now breaking into male-dominated spaces and paving the way for women who come after them.
Here are two women’s stories.
Tech industry male-dominant, but becoming more diverse
Bridget* is an associate consultant at a technology consulting company, specialising in data management and analysis.
Women of the past pioneered many of the scientific and technological advancements used today, though they are often denied the same recognition as their male counterparts.
Bridget originally studied science and business but ended up changing course after discovering a passion for technology and using data to solve problems.
“In my final years of university, I quickly found myself enamoured with using data to uncover trends and patterns, and knew I wanted to immerse myself in this field,” she said.
Significant investment has been made towards encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), yet those working in the field still face discrimination and barriers, leading to reduced confidence and imposter syndrome for people like Bridget.
“As I had come from a non-tech background, I sometimes feel I am in way over my head,” she said.
“I’m trying to learn to be more confident in my work and trusting that I know what I’m doing. I also realise that taking risks and being out of my comfort zone is going to be pivotal for my career development. If I don’t try, I won’t learn,” she said.
Despite the clear gender disparity that persists at her company, Bridget has always felt supported by her colleagues and encourages all women with a passion for technology to pursue it as a career.
“The tech industry as a whole is changing and is becoming much more diverse,” she said.
“Although many companies are still skewed towards men, there are so many meet-up groups for women focused on finding a support network, even if it’s outside of your company.”
If you’re considering a career in STEM, start by exploring your options, and don’t be afraid to reach out to networks for support.
‘Making a mark as a female pilot still quite hard’
Evelyn, who has served in the Indian Air Force, is now an instructor at a flight school, where she takes customers out on scenic and chartered flights around the Melbourne region.
She remains the only woman working as an instructor at her company, which she said is slowly improving but remains “a man’s world”.
While she feels she is mostly treated the same as her male counterparts, at times her skills and abilities are underestimated.
This often comes in the form of subtle comments from men who are surprised at her ability to fly and land the aircraft so well – skills which she mastered through eight years of painstaking hard work.
“Making a mark as a female pilot still is quite a bit of hard work. They have to see to believe,” she said.
Evelyn said she and other women are sometimes stereotyped as bad pilots, despite often being better at multitasking, quick decision making, and keeping calm in difficult situations than some of her male colleagues.
This reflects antiquated assumptions and gender norms that falsely portray aviation and other adventurous career paths as inherently masculine, or too risky or physical for women to excel at.
The barriers to success for women in aviation was a motivating force for Evelyn in her journey to get to where she is, balancing the demands of studying, working, and taking flight lessons.
Evelyn describes her endeavour as a labour of love and is proud to be a role model for future women and girls with a passion for aviation.
Less than five percent of pilots are women, with female employment rates poor across the aviation industry.
With the sector estimating needing an additional million pilots, engineers, and technicians to meet consumer demand over the next few decades, now is a great time for women to enter a career in aviation.
Agencies like the Australian Chapter of Women in Aviation International (WAI) can be useful in making initial connections and talking to other women about their experience.
Women have always fought for their place in male-dominated spaces, and it’s these fearless pioneers who paved the way for current and future generations.
Game-changing women like Bridget and Evelyn and now leading the charge by breaking down barriers and opening doors for women and girls that come after them, allowing them to follow their passion and unlock their potential for whatever they choose to pursue as a career.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.