It’s no secret that the majority of people buying, flying and working in drones are male. So what’s keeping women out? It’s generally nothing overtly sexist. I’ve never heard a man say “women can’t fly.”
But a lot of the things people say are subtly sexist, which can discourage women from feeling included, getting promoted or wanting to participate. Many of these things come down to unconscious biases — instances where people automatically assume men fly yet assume women don’t. And while some things people say could be well-intentioned, the unconscious biases behind them perpetuate stereotypes.
I asked some of my female friends to tell me their stories of things men have said to them that the man likely didn’t realize was sexist.
I am printing these because I want people to realize that men and women aren’t often viewed equally in the eyes of the drone world. While it is hard to shake our pre-existing biases, I hope people will share this post so that we can at least be cognizant of our biases, and not say these things in the future. And next time, ask yourself, “Would you say or do these things to a man?”
Here are some selections, printed anonymously to protect privacy:
“Wow you’re beautiful AND smart! That’s rare!”
“Where’s your husband, and what company is he with?”
“You’re really smart. You seem to know what you’re talking about. How did you get that way?”
“You’re smarter than you look.”
To a woman wearing a branded, drone-manufacturer shirt standing at a booth: “Wait, so do you actually fly these?”
“How do you know so much about this?”
To a woman answering questions at a company’s booth during a conference: “Isn’t your job just to stand here and look pretty?”
“Let’s get to the bottom line. What do I have to do to get you to come out and give me private lesson on how to fly one of these?”
“Do you even have estrogen in your body?”
Here are some other stories women shared about their experiences:
“Another drone company came into our office to demo our product. They said, ‘We should let someone fly who has never flown before,’ and without even pausing, handed their drone to me. Of course, I had flown before, while many of my male colleagues hadn’t.”
“If I’m out flying with my guy friends, people tend to ask them questions before asking me. They assume that a guy would know more then a woman.”
“Twice I’ve been promised to go out on a job, but then told flat out I can’t go because I’m a woman and it takes too much energy from my male colleagues to ‘watch out for me’.”
From a family-owned businesswoman: “People assume my husband controls every aspect of our business.”
“A fellow drone pilot approaches, introduces himself to my husband, shakes his hand, has a quick chat about the meet, ignores me and walks away like I was completely invisible. He obviously assumed that my husband was the pilot and my daughter and I were tag-alongs.”
“At a recent drone event, a ‘friend’ said they were pleased I’d be there as I could entertain his wife while he and my husband, who I co-founded our family business with, sought business opportunities.”
Of course, women aren’t afraid to speak up.
Here’s one story from a woman whose company frequently has a booth at trade-shows: “An angry man not happy about who-knows-what comes up to booth and says, ‘I need to speak to the man in charge!’ Then, my awesome lady boss (and owner of company) comes up to him with a smile and says, ‘I am the man in charge.'”