Saturday, September 26, 2009

Getting the word out!

We at Girls With Wings have had so many great opportunities lately to reach out to more people with our mission using aviation to entertain and educate girls about their limitless opportunities for personal growth. For example, we attended the Cleveland Women's Show so that we could talk to folks with little or no experience in the aviation world. It was certainly an educational experience. Usually we are talking to aviation enthusiasts when we attend Oshkosh or Women in Aviation conferences or the like. If you're in aviation, you know we need to attract more people into aviation, and girls in particular. But put a sign up at a Women's Show and you get a lot of "Girls With Wings? (some people even read Girls With WIGS!) What is that??"

So we at the booth had to be a bit aggressive about reaching out to women passing by. In fact, I have gotten a little spoiled by the enthusiasm with which people come to US at Oshkosh. I learned very quickly that the purpose of our booth was going to require a bit of explanation. After the first day, I decided that we would wear our pilots' uniforms (those of us who had them) in the booth so we'd grab attention. And I put up some self made signs that explained that "We inspire girls to achieve their full potential." We had hoped to do some fund-raising here, but it seemed we needed the real estate for better causes than the t-shirt display behind us. A white tri-fold board was placed up on top of the table behind Abby, Courtney, me and Nancy so that people could see the pictures of Girls With Wings representatives doing presentations. And so people started asking us questions and we were able to do what we needed: reach out to the community so we could find more opportunities for outreach with our presentations and website. It offered great insight on how to modify the message of GWW to appeal to the general public. Thank you to all that volunteered that stuck it out and kept those brochures flying out of the booth!

The other opportunity Girls With Wings has had to let others know of our public awareness project was a two day blog entry from Av8rdan's World of Flying. Dan Pimentel is in advertising and specializes in Ad Campaign development, graphics and photography. We've been following each other for ages on Twitter, me as @girlswithwings and he as @av8rdan. We even were able to meet each other in person at Oshkosh - if only briefly (remember, the GWW booth there is crazy busy!). Part one was entitled:

Girls With Wings:
General Aviation's Secret to Growth

and part two is Venus and Mars: GWW's Meeks on Gender Differences on the Flight Deck

Dan had sent me a long list of questions to answer about my background and experience and the history behind and mission of GWW. He also let me know that the GWW material gave his blog the LARGEST BOOST OF TRAFFIC in months...almost twice the number of unique visitors the day it was published as most days. As he says, "I think this validates (in a very small way) what you are doing with GWW since it appears so many people want to read what you have to say."

I also received quite a few emails from people that have read his blog. My favorite was this one:
Dearest Lynda,
Last night, as I was finishing up my homework for Aerodynamics, I really started doubting myself and what I want to be come in the world of Aviation. After spending more time thinking than doing hw, the more sad I grew. Airfoil, boundary layer, viscosity.. I would even comprehend the littlest of words anymore. I dozed of thinking that maybe this Airplane thing isn't meant for you; It's a Dream that I've always had, but not all dreams are meant to come true.

I woke up feeling very discouraged. Thought, "Why am I even going to Aerodynamics class if I'm doubting myself? This is more of a Man's dream anyways.." I then signed on to Facebook. Your status came across my news feed and I quickly and eagerly made my way to your page.

That eArticle I read was literally my INSPIRATION & MOTIVATION to get my engine going again. And for that Ms. Meeks, I commend you. Thank you so very much for your inspiration not only for Aviation, but for GIRLS in Aviation.

I don't know what I would have done with my life after today if I had not read that interview article. Thank you for pulling me back in! I am now off to Aerodynamics class with a positive head and new sense of inspiration and motivation!
THANK YOU!
You are truly appreciated!
I tell you, emails like this just make my day. Again, I thank everyone for their continued support and enthusiastic participation in the Girls With Wings organization.

4 comments:

  1. "Women's Shows" in my area tend to focus on clothing retailers and wedding planning. I applaud you for putting up a booth!

    As for your gender differences interview I loved your observation about how women try to understand things more before jumping in. I've found that too. When I was a freshman in engineering I was really worried that I was behind the curve, because we'd go into the lab and the guys would jump right in to plugging in cables and setting up breadboards. I thought they knew what they were doing and if I tried I'd get laughed at, so I stood back.

    Then our first round of tests happened and wouldn't you know it, I did very well. That confidence boost made me notice that none of their lab projects worked! I could also plug things in like I knew what I was doing, and had just as much success if not more. I just wasn't as good at faking confidence.

    There's this stereotype that engineers and pilots and scientists are born as engineers and pilots and scientists. They have to naturally know certain things, and look a certain way. I've realized that they're definitely not born, but made. This seems to be a big secret.

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  2. It's great to see a group like this, showing girls they can be whatever they set out to be and mentoring them along the way. Hard to believe the whole gender thing is still an issue in aviation. I suppose it's more a matter of perception than anything.

    Mom was a WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) B-25 pilot in the 40s and I think she would commend your efforts.

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  3. Debi R.9:35 PM

    I agree with Matt: it's hard to believe that the whole gender thing is still an issue anywhere, not just in aviation. Way to go Girls With Wings! Keep breaking through and reaching out to the young women with dreams!

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  4. Anonymous8:59 AM

    Ms. Meeks,
    You are an inspiration to me as well and I am very thankful to have found your site. My only regret is not having found it earlier. In this male dominant profession, I have been discriminated against because of my gender numerous times.

    When I began flight training the owner of the flight school said '80% of flight instructors will not take on female students.' And the flight instructor working for him was within the 20% that did, thank goodness! How much truth is there to what he said? Please advise.

    I did not let that comment discourage me the least bit. I knew that eventually I would end up flying with him and I did. Also, after only a few hours he soloed me which was a big surprise being that he did not believe in me. Now, he claims I am a 'natural.' Leaving me the first girl to solo at his flight school.

    While soloing I had to pull out the airplane out of the hanger all by myself. Men in the area would just watch me. Never offered to help and would say comments such as... 'just leave it in there.' 'Why are you pulling it out anyway?'

    At first I struggled. I did not have the upper body strength to pull out the airplane and I would move the airplane forward 1 inch at a time. I think the most difficult part of soloing was getting the airplane out of the hanger!!!

    Determined to become a pilot, I began using weights at the gym to develop my upper body more. And I did and finally it just became a piece of cake. The road has not been easy but its definitily worth it.

    Thank you for the stories. You are great role model for all of us girls. I am thankful I found this site.

    Have a great day and be safe.
    Alzira

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