Learning to fly with Grace: breaking barriers for women in rural areas
You may remember our recent scholarship collaboration with the wonderful volunteers at WAI – Women in aviation the Australian Chapter. Grace Walker was the winner of this scholarship, an inspirational, strong, and motivated individual – she’s committed to breaking down barriers for women with aviation aspirations in rural areas. With a passion for flying, teaching and motherhood, Grace is a stand-out role model, and we were so pleased to present her with our women’s hi vis workwear to assist her in her journey. Co Gear was able to catch up with Grace after the award presentation held on Zoom in November. We were curious to know more about her goals and motivations, and what drove her to push forward when advocating for women in rural areas.
Thanks for chatting with us today Grace! We would love to know more about what motivated you to apply for the Co Gear x WAI scholarship, after all, it’s how we’ve come to connect with you!
I was motivated by the lack of availability of women's appropriate clothing in aviation/other "male dominated careers". I have seen what being in a minority can look and feel like and I have a passion to encourage other women to fly to begin to change this. I want to do what I can to encourage and inspire other women to give it a go.
That’s so awesome. We loved reading your essay and the mention of your 5 year aviation goal. Tell us a little bit more about that and what you plan to achieve within the 5 years?
I see myself being a prominent figure for women in rural aviation. I bought a LightWing GA-912 in August 2020. Since I have obtained a Recreational Pilot Certificate, 70 hours of flying and am few flights away from achieving a Private Pilots License. I hope to then continue gaining experience and further my endorsements. When ready I hope to complete the Principles and Methods of Instruction and begin my journey as a female flight instructor. Currently the closest female flight instructors are in Bathurst and Cowra (which are both about 2 and a half hours away). If I am successful, I would be giving women who live further West more opportunities and greater access to flying.
You mentioned that it’s your dream to have an aviation training school and be an example for changing careers, especially for mothers. What do you think the barriers are for mothers in particular, that can hold them back?
Where do I start with that (haha)? There are so many barriers. Unless you have experienced bias and inequality it is hard to recognise. Women are underrepresented in aviation. Rural challenges are distance, limited child-care and an improving (but still not adequate) female representation in aviation. Learning to fly is hard enough, but women in rural areas don't have the option of choice with the distance and may prefer a female instructor, who are few and far between. Being in the minority can feel isolated. Bias and gender-based assumptions can be present. I have noticed that women tend to prioritise their family and children, so often do not follow through on their own passions. Add in the obvious barriers like work commitments, finances, work/life balance and here are what can feel like unsurmountable barriers.
Wow, those are some massive and all too real barriers that need overcoming. Do you believe that by following our own dreams, it set’s the example for our children and future generations to follow theirs?
Absolutely. This sets an example to future generations that trail blazing and being the first to do something is worth it, even if for only personal growth. It may set of a chain of events which positively impacts others. Children can see where hard work, dedication and commitment can lead as well as how much happiness following a passion can bring to themselves and others.
What’s one piece of advice that you could share with women out there who are wanting to chase their passions, but are hesitant to take the leap?
A quote that has resonated with me is "The risk you're afraid to take could be the one that changes your entire life" (Kylie Francis). The boldest ideas, mixed with passion are often the most successful. Whether it is aviation, or another passion, find a way in, stay consistent and trust your gut that you are doing the right thing. The path you are meant to be on will reveal itself.
What a powerful note to end on, thank you Grace for your time and transparency surrounding your goals and aspirations in aviation. If you would like to follow Grace and her journey’s progress she can be found via her Facebook page “Grace’s flying adventures”.