It’s a problem all too common in the tech world. There is an embarrassingly minuscule number of women in tech.
David Cohen says it’s a pipeline problem, a sentiment echoed by many, often men. As Jon Evans wrote in TechCrunch, “it’s disingenuous to turn a blind eye to the fact that many women who doenter the industry subsequently drop out of it.”
Clearly, the drone industry isn’t any better than the other tech realms.
Let’s just look at the employee makeup at some of the world’s major drone companies, based on bios from company websites.
- At 3D Robotics, 6/6 (yes, 100%) of the people featured on the executive bios page are men.
- At Airware, 7/8 (88%) of the executive team is male.
- At Skycatch, 8/8 (100%) of the people listed on the leadership section of their team page are men.
- At Vires Aero, 6/6 (100%) of the company’s team and founders are men.
- At Precision Hawk, the staff website lists 9 female members and 50 male members (85% male).
You get the point. Clearly, the drone industry has a lot of work to do.
So why do women drop out? Maybe it’s because the same guy who successfully landed a drone on a comet wore a shirt covered in bustiered cartoon ladies during media interviews.
Science writer and editor Rose Eveleth summed up why this leads to basically no women in the drone community perfectly.
— Rose Eveleth (@roseveleth) November 12, 2014
Of course, a collective of men on the Internet respond to that tweet with not-so-encouraging comments like this.
@roseveleth calm your tits it’s just a shirt
— Nan Yang (@braintootired) November 13, 2014
I’ve seen it too frequently. I’ve experienced major instances of sexism, but also tiny instances, like someone saying, “you fly really well for a girl!” Is that a compliment, really? Or are you putting down my entire gender for implying that women shouldn’t actually be good pilots? A well-known robotics executive once told me on the way to lunch, “I don’t believe women can be both beautiful and smart.” Really? So which one am I?
If we’re going to get picky here, even the term UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) or UAS is a bit sexist, no?
It’s not that all drone companies are suffering from a serious gender diversity problem.
And it’s not that there are no successful women in drones. It’s that women aren’t inclined to work in an industry that is sexist. They won’t work in an industry if they don’t have other role models who are like them. They refuse to be objectified, seen as the token woman, and constantly scrutinized for every mishap, question they have or decision they make when operating a drone.
That’s where I’ve proposed a New Year’s Resolution for the drone industry. Let’s support women in drones. To the companies listed above, be conscious of this when hiring or promoting in the new year. To people in the drone industry, be conscious of how you treat a woman, whether she is new and curious about getting into the industry or a better pilot than you.
And as for myself, I need to be better about celebrating women in drones too. That’s why, this year, I’m going to regularly feature Q&As or profiles of women who have done great things for the drone industry.
There are so many badass women in drones. They just need to have a voice. And you’ll hear it here, on The Drone Girl.