Aviation for Women

MAR-APR 2018

Aviation for Women is the flagship member publication of Women in Aviation International. Articles feature women who have made aviation history, professional development ideas, and current-topic articles.

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76 AviationforWomen M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 8 Exercise Your Boundaries P A T R I C I A L U E B K E W ay back when the surface of the Earth was cooling (in other words, the early 1980s), I was one of few women with any professional vis- ibility in corporate aviation. I'd attend aviation trade shows such as the National Business Avia- tion Association (NBAA) convention—which in those days still had booths with "hot" hostesses and girls in bikinis—and casually search, most- ly in vain, for another woman like me who was wearing a business suit. I remember a fellow who worked for a name- brand aviation company. I'm not saying which one, as I don't want to besmirch the 2018 ver- sion of this company with a fool who worked there back then. He had this trick—let's call him Fred. Fred would lean in to give me what I thought was going to be a fatherly peck on the cheek but would turn out to be planting his big rubber y wet lips smack on my mouth. It was horrid, really, and, after a few such greetings, I eventually learned to turn my head in an at- tempt to deflect those wet lips to the side of my face (but I still felt the need to wipe the place where Fred's lips had been). Later, when I told my friend Stancie about Fred, I learned he did the same thing to her. Fred grew to be a joke between us. Did Fred get you yet? Were you able to turn your head fast enough? We made it our joke and felt with our quick turns of the head we had beaten the sys- tem. I think about Fred with my 2018 world view and it seems preposterous to me that Fred got away with what he did (and stunned that Stancie and I didn't scream holy hell), but, yes, I know why women don't tell. Had I told my boss, noth- ing would have happened. I am sure of that. I would have been told that Fred's company was important to my company and that would have been that. Don't rock the boat. Nothing really bad happened. Oh, that's just Fred. Ignore him. Really, lighten up. Lighten up. I've been told that many times over the years, and just this week, I received a group email from a pilot I know. The subject line was, "Gotta keep the industry clean, right?" The email read, "Due to the increased focus on sexu- al misconduct issues, the reference to Touch & Go landings has been deleted from the ATC Ap- proved Phraseology Handbook." Do you think that's funny? I don't, because the underlying message is, "Don't take this sexual harassment stuff so seriously. I don't." Of the thousands of words I've read in the past few months, the hours of cable news and the dozens of conversations with friends, male and female, all I can say is this is a time of change, but I'm not entirely confident as to the bound- aries. You see, I had my own experience of being accused of sexual harassment, however mildly. Here's what happened: I was interviewing a male engineer who worked at a huge avionics compa- ny by telephone for a magazine article. It was a bitter January day, with the temperature way be- low zero, and by way of making small talk at the beginning of the interview I asked him, "Is it as cold in Cedar Rapids as it is in New York City? " He assured me it was even colder, and I, by way of continuing my small talk, said, "You and I should be on a beach somewhere warm, not do- ing this interview." I meant nothing by it. I wasn't even flirting; I was commenting on the weather. When he didn't respond, I thought he didn't hear me and so I re- peated what I'd said. Finally, after a few seconds of silence, he said, "We get so much sexual ha- rassment training here that I'm afraid to say anything back to you." I was stunned and sput- tered a few words and started the interview. When I recently related this story to a female friend, showing how innocent I was, she said, "But what if the genders were reversed? What if it were a male interviewer and a female engi- neer?" Hmm. I got her point. A friend who is the head instructor at a flight school told me that a male flight instructor of his asked a female flight instructor of his out on a date. She said no, but later he sent her flowers for her birthday and she complained to my friend, her boss, claiming this behavior was sexual ha- rassment. I don't know how creepy this guy was who sent the flowers; maybe he was constantly following her around, scaring her by popping out from behind an airplane or waiting at her car, but I would place the date and the flowers part of this low on the sexual harassment spectrum. I heard a pundit on cable news saying that ev- ery woman has had some experience involving sexual harassment. Every woman? I know I had several. But I started asking every woman I spoke Of the thousands of words I've read in the past few months, the hours of cable news and the dozens of conversations with friends, male and female, all I can say is this is a time of change, but I'm not entirely confident as to the boundaries. P E R S O N A L D E V E L O P M E N T

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