Imaginary Life

Challenging the aviation industry in India, one woman at a time.

How many percent of pilots are women? 3 percent? 5 percent or 11 percent? You might be surprised to find out that the country with the highest percentage of female pilots is India, with 11 percent, compared the global percentage of 3 percent and 5 percent in the United States.

Two WAI India trainees at Girls in Aviation Day celebration celebrated at the Delhi Flying Club, September, 2017.

Two WAI India trainees at Girls in Aviation Day celebration celebrated at the Delhi Flying Club, September, 2017.

“The gender imbalance in aviation is global!” says Noopurr R. Chablani, Secretary of the Indian Chapter of the NGO Women in Aviation International (WAI). She continues: “Girls in India have been encouraged to study STEM subjects (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) for quite some time already, so there are a lot of high school girls with high career ambitions.”

Bhatia has years of experience in travel, tourism and hospitality and wanted to give young women more career opportunities – not only as pilots or cabin crew, but also as all types of engineers, technicians, designers, strategists, air traffic controllers, operations managers, and flight care specialists, to name but a few professions in the field.

     Radha Bhatia, the driving force behind Women in Aviation International, India.

Radha Bhatia, the driving force behind Women in Aviation International, India.

noopurr pic

Noopurr R. Chablani, dedicated to gender equality in aviation.

Bhatia herself is no stranger to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). She started the Bird Academy in 1988, as an educational arm of the Bird Group. Bird Academy offers diploma and certificate courses in travel and tourism, airfares and ticketing, passenger and baggage handling, air safety and emergency handling, dangerous goods regulations, as well as consultant and foundation courses certified by IATA, a trade association of world airlines. The courses range from about a month to a year in duration and Bird Academy trains roughly 3,000 students every year, guiding them from high school to finding employment across the country.

Sai Deepthi Patro

Sai Deepthi Patro, 15-year-old from Visakhapatnam, India, says: “Today I visited the entire airport and even got an opportunity to see what an Air Traffic Control tower looks like. I become an engineer. I will definitely try for a job in aviation.” (December 14th, 2017).

Bhatia adds: “We also need to involve the girls’ families so the girls all have an advocate at home. There are still a lot of preconceived ideas about what it means for a woman to work at an airport or as an air flight attendant. Also, specialized education is long and it can take years before the girls earning a living.”

There is indeed, a lot of work to do. The global aviation industry needs to update its practices to actively promote gender equality. In India, Bhatia and Chablani are challenging the status quo and inspiring others to do the same.

Video: The inauguration of Aviation Multi-Skill Development Centre, located at the old airport in Chandigarh, 27th February 2018. The Centre will train 2360 candidates in 8 Job Roles, over a 3 year period, with the CSR contributions from the Airports Authority of India to the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDF), and with active support from the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The centre will be affiliated with the Aerospace & Aviation Sector Skill Council (AASSC) who have helped develop the content of the program, with Bird academy as the Training Partner.

Captain Nivedita awards a WAI student with a pilot cap.

Captain Nivedita awards a WAI student with a pilot cap.

Patagonia’s “Get out of jail free” card

Patagonia’s Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card
You’ve probably already heard some of the great green gossip about Patagonia: that their fleece is made from recycled soda bottles rather than crude oil, that the company has given more than $20 million dollars to grassroots environmental groups, or that they converted their entire sportswear line to organically grown cotton.

But the real shocker in Patagonia’s long list of above and beyond eco-accomplishments is its policy of offering free environmental activism training to all employees, and its promise to post bail for any program graduates whose peaceful protest ends in arrest.

Patagonia first implemented the policy in the mid ’90s when three of their employees were arrested while attempting to save Northern Californian redwoods from logging. The company now offers all interested staff a civil disobedience training program taught by Ruckus Society, a nonprofit dedicated to providing environmental, human rights and social justice organizers with the tools, training and support to achieve their goals. Ruckus schools Patagonia employees in tactics for keeping the peace in the face of conflict, and offers a clear perspective on both the risks and rewards of activism. “It helps them make choices that are in alignment with what they want to participate in and what they believe,” said Lu Setnicka, Patagonia’s Director of Training and Employee Development, a recent Ruckus graduate herself.

While no jailbirds have been freed as of late, Patagonia employees completed a Ruckus training seminar a few months ago in Ventura. The company audaciously affirms: “It may sound as if we are training and subsidizing a bunch of tree huggers, hellraisers and brassbound ecologists. We are.”
—Jolia Sidona Einstein at Wholelifetimes