NEWSLETTTER | WOMEN IN MOTION
The Rise of the Technical Female
In the past, the global workforce was largely made up of men. As the global landscape evolves, socially and economically, the work environment is expanding to accommodate more individuals and to ensure that women are able to step in, even if it means that they end up in roles traditionally reserved for men.
A case in point is Jane Trembath, airline captain and motivational speaker. According to Jane, the reason there is an increase in the number of women in technical jobs is due to two factors: exposure and opportunity. “In the past, women simply did not realise that such jobs were an option. Today, more women witness other women breaking ground everywhere and, suddenly, they realise that anything is possible – they grasp the fact that any individual can do anything that is suited to their interests and capabilities, irrespective of gender.”
by Nomia Machebe
Jane points out that, previously, a large number of women did not see certain positions in the market as suitable for them, not because they were not keen to perform the duties involved, but because they did not have the opportunities to do so. “Many older women have told me how they would have loved to have been pilots, but the closest they could get was being an air hostess. Nowadays, women are simply expressing their full range of abilities,” Jane points out.
At the age of 16, Jane flew in a light aircraft for the first time, and she found the experience of being up in the air thrilling. That is when it dawned on her that she had to pursue a dream up in the clouds. Since she matriculated in 1982, Jane has spent most of her working life on the flight deck. Obtaining a commercial pilot’s licence was the easy part. It was putting her foot into the work environment as a young, inexperienced female pilot that became a challenge. Finally, the determined Jane landed a job in 1985 with a small airline in Namibia flying light aircraft. Then, in 1988, she became one of the first women in South Africa to be accepted into a large airline. Since then, the sky has been the limit for this woman. Jane has flown several types of Boeing and Airbus jets, first as a co-pilot and then as a captain – and, in 2007, she became the first woman pilot in South Africa to command long-range international flights.
Thanks to Jane’s parents, who, according to her were “slightly unconventional thinkers”, she is who she is today because her father, an engineer, and her mother, a nurse, gave Jane an empowering environment to grow and explore. According to Jane, not once during her childhood did her parents ever say: “You cannot do that because you are a woman.” Therefore, to this day, Jane does not allow her gender to limit her abilities and capabilities.
Currently, in her leadership role as captain, Jane finds that it takes more than technical skill to succeed. Therefore, this focused woman continually concentrates on developing her insight and self-knowledge in order to fine-tune her individual style as a leader. A natural hard worker, Jane has never been scared to explore tough territories. In school, she passionately studied Mathematics, Physics and Geography, subjects which are essential knowledge for piloting.
“When I started my flying training, there were few options available to women. There were no sponsored cadet programmes, nor did the Air Force accept women. I trained independently at a private flying club and ground school for my commercial pilot exams. Later, I studied further in my own time to upgrade my licence to that of airline transport pilot,” Jane narrates. The hard work did not stop there, though, for every time one flies a new aircraft type, the conversion training takes three months, which includes technical ground school, simulator and route training. And every six months, Jane goes through simulator training and a flight test to keep her licence valid. No other profession has such continual training and testing.
Initially, Jane approached her job with the mind-set that she needed to behave and act like a man; and, of course, this approach was not productive. It took some time for Jane to work out where exactly she was getting things wrong. She did not have any female mentors who could show her the ropes, but had to solve the puzzle herself. It is for this reason that she is today a motivational speaker on the subject of leadership, a topic that is gaining popularity and becoming more relevant than ever before. She uses different platforms to explain to women that confidence is the key to success. “To lead others, we first have to learn to lead ourselves,” she articulates gently.
Jane acknowledges that today’s woman has a huge responsibility not only to herself, but also to the younger generation. “The greatest gift a woman can give to a young girl is to teach her how to find her own power, and not to wait to be empowered by the world – to show her that the power comes from within. Confidence comes from accepting oneself, taking responsibility for one’s own life and making a contribution to the world.” However, Jane points out that she would like to see more emphasis in society on young women becoming financially independent so that they can feel free to make the choices best suited to them. Jane believes that a school such as the Oprah Winfrey School for Girls prepares young girls for the ever-evolving environment we live in. “The School’s values of respect, honour, service and compassion are close to my heart – how we could advance as a nation if these values were adopted countrywide! As Oprah comments, education is indeed freedom. An educated woman has the power to determine the course of her own life.”
To all women, Jane says: “The key to success in life lies within by finding one’s personal power. This brings a sense of peace and inner contentment, the self-knowledge to make the right choices and the courage to follow one’s dreams. Personal power is grown too from your sense of self-worth that you will leave the world a better place, and gives you the inner strength to overcome challenges.” The increasing number of women moving into technical positions in the workplace will not only ensure that women play a key role in societal development, but will also create a supportive atmosphere and enabling environment for the upcoming generation of women.
The Captain’s Advice for Soaring into the Sky
Know yourself – know who you are and what interests you, not what other people think you should be interested in.
Be honest – stay true to your highest self.
Be distinctive – everyone is unique and has their own niche to fill in this world, and you will find the greatest success by being yourself and trusting your gut feel.