With International Women’s Day (March 8) around the corner comes a reminder – written on an airplane cocktail napkin – that the struggle for women’s equality continues.
“The cockpit of an airliner is no place for a woman,” began a note scrawled on a napkin and left behind by a passenger on a recent WestJet flight from Calgary to Victoria, B.C.
“Were (sic) short mothers, not pilots” continued the note, in which a passenger who signed his named as David also referenced a bible verse and said he wished the airline would tell him when “a fair lady is at the helm” so he can be sure to “book another flight.”
The plane’s pilot, Carey Steacy, shared the note on her Facebook page with a response that said in part, “…I have heard many comments from people throughout my 17 year career as a pilot. Most of them positive….. You were more than welcome to deplane when you heard I was a “fair lady.” You have that right…”
Steacy’s Facebook post has since been removed, but many news outlets and individuals have re-posted the note.
“My first reaction was shock, Steacy told CTV Vancouver, “I have to think that that’s very much not a common feeling among the general public.”
Canadian carrier WestJet currently has 1,111 male pilots and 58 female pilots. Its subsidiary regional airline, WestJet Encore, has 87 male and 10 female pilots.
“We are enormously proud of the professionalism, skills and expertise of our pilots, and we find this note very disappointing,” the airline said in a statement.
Women in the aviation industry have rallied behind Steacy and commended her for responding to the sexist note with dignity and class.
“Some might say the crude note did not deserve a response, but it is important to do so,” said Barbara Williams, Interim Executive Director at the International Women’s Air and Space Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. If only “to remind us all that women continue to achieve and play an important part in the aviation world’s history.”
“Most women pilots would just say that the airplane does not know whether or not the pilot is a woman, so it does not behave any differently,” said Martha Phillips, president of The Ninety-Nines, the International Organization of Women Pilots.