Why don’t women fly drones?

A cursory Google shows this to be a known problem – there’s a huge gender gap in the drone industry. Also, there’s a lot of super fun comment threads you can read of men guessing why that might be). As a lady myself, I suppose I would credit an original lack of interest. I myself did not find out about the drone community until more recently.

Why didn’t I hear about this? Is it because there were no ads targeted at people like me? Is it because I have no friends? I mean… no friends who are flying drones? Cough.

To be honest, the first I remember hearing of drones, they were being used for airstrikes. The other use was taking pictures of an unsuspecting lady’s, um, bits, so to speak. Not exactly inviting.

drone-women

But that can’t be enough to keep a whole gender out of an industry, right? One dingus (or several) buzzes a topless woman and we quit out?

Well, first off, let’s give credit where it’s due. Some women do fly drones. For example, There are developers like Paola Santana of Matternet and Helen Greiner of CyPhy. They have been making a big difference for women’s images in the drone community. Sometimes, it’s by talking about their experience of the drone scene and its lack of women. Other times, it is by being a role model for girls just now thinking about getting into drones.

With 80-100% of leadership in most major drone companies being male (stats available here, if you want to fight me on that), just seeing that professional women fly drones can be a huge boost of encouragement. So if you didn’t know that women fly drones, you wouldn’t be alone.

Helen Greiner TechCrunch 2015

CyPhy Works Helen Greiner holds a drone onstage during day one of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015 at Pier 70 on September 21, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

Root Causes

Where Problems STEM from

Which brings us to our main problem. There are many great ladies doing great things and leading by example in this field. But there are still many, many more men. So, why?

We know the executive teams for many drone companies are predominantly male; as well as, the online and in-person communities. Advertising of drones is targeted largely (though not exclusively) at males. This disparity alone can be alienating.

Pretend for a second you were really into chalk. So, you went to a chalk convention and everyone else there was an alien from Alpha Centauri. Sure, you all share a love of chalk. But wouldn’t you stand out and feel nervous? I’m just saying.

But how did this get started, and why don’t more women go into STEM fields?

Well, there’s a well-documented societal problem. Sometimes, women are told from an early age that they won’t be as inherently good as men at certain things. There’s been a great deal of research into this, but A UCLA study authored by Sax et al offers insight.

“Accordingly, sometime during adolescence, girls begin to internalize notions that math is not a field in which they are likely to be successful, generally through experiences within various environmental contexts, such as the home and school.” – 1

This seems to be the case for most STEM fields. Thus, the tendency is to lose interest early in life. Once established, this mentality carries through to college academics, hobbies, and interests as well.

girl hates learning STEM

Sexism

Plus, as in many of the other STEM fields, there is absolutely a problem with sexism in the drone community once a woman does get into it. In this interview, Sally French said, “I once had a conversation with a famous CEO in drones about women in tech, and he said ‘I don’t think it’s possible to be both beautiful and smart.’”

Women’s Self Image

Yet, Another problem is the way the media portrays a woman’s image. As Jean Kilboune points out, modern marketing negatively contributes to a girl’s self image. This goes on to impact what she believes she can and can’t do in life.

 

Here lies the crux of the problem. For a woman to enter this field, she must be interested and courageous enough to pass these initial hurdles. These are hurdles that men simply don’t face. In fact, men are welcomed or, more specifically, allowed to enter the field unnoticed. Just like women, they make their first few flights and repeatedly crash… horribly. No one assumes it’s because they’re bad at dronery (yeah, dronery).

For a woman, there’s a lot of pressure to be good right away or be written off.

We NEED More Women Flying Drones

Now, why, you ask, do we even want more women? Because, different perspectives help to achieve more unique uses and drone-based solutions. Because, companies with gender parity in their leadership tend to be more successful. Not to mention, women are smart and cool and useful.

Lisa Ellman proves that point. As an Obama Administration veteran, she helped to establish drone policy for the Department of Justice. She proves that women can be smart, beautiful and incredibly talented in any industry (including drones).

Increased Revenue

Oh, did I forget to mention that women may play a huge part of the future revenue in this industry?

“If U.S.-based women-owned businesses were their own country, they would have the 5th largest GDP in the world, trailing closely behind Germany, and ahead of countries including France, United Kingdom and Italy.” – in Economic Impact of Women-Owned Businesses in the United States.” – 2

 

It’s a simple but powerful formula. Women create businesses with products targeted for other women. Thus, new market segments can be reached. This in turn creates more jobs and a more favorable outlook for women in drones.women-owned

Large companies such as Wal-Mart have already realized the potential. Utilizing the Women-Owned label, they have pledged to source $20 billion of women-owned goods by 2016. – 3

So, what can we, The People Of The Drones, do right now?

  • Show more women using drones (using like humans, not sexily holding or getting chased by them) in our advertisements, media, articles, conferences, etc. etc. etc.
  • Be nice to women when they do use drones.
  • Please, please don’t talk about their bodies and bits.
  • Continue to promote the idea that there are many more uses for drones than just taking secret pictures of their lady bits.
  • Don’t take pictures of their bits.

Now say it with me, “We won’t talk about your bits! We won’t take pictures of your bits!”

woman bikini drone cmp

Don’t do this!

 

Women, welcome to the drone community!

 

References

1. Sax, LJ Kanny, MA, Riggers-Piehl, TA Whang, H and Paulson, LN. (2015, June 16). “But I’m Not Good at Math”: The Changing Salience of Mathematical Self-Concept in Shaping Women’s and Men’s STEM Aspirations. Retrieved from http://escholarship.org/uc/item/6dr6w4dj

2. NWBC. (2009, October). The Economic Impact of Women-Owned Businesses In the United States. Retrieved from https://www.nwbc.gov/sites/default/files/economicimpactstu.pdf

3. Arnold, GL. (2015). Women-Owned Business Branding: Consumer Behavior Based on Hedonic vs. Utilitarian Positioning. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/honors/149/