The theme for 2018's International Women's Day (IWD) is #PressForProgress - there are many aspects to this, for example challenging statements that limit women and assuming women want opportunities until declined.
Engineering - and the drone industry - are somewhat infamous for their masculine culture. Oftentimes if we talk about flying for a particular project, or discussing the design of our drone, you'll hear things like "when can the boys go and fly?" or "can you check with him about this aspect?".
This seems like a minor difference in language, but the assumption that drone pilots or engineers are automatically male is part of the inclusive mindset that IWD advocates for.
I've personally worked with remarkable drone pilots and engineers, both female and male, and the best results usually come about when we work as a team and are able to communicate with each other.
Studies on teams in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) have shown that achieving gender parity within the group is key to improving collective intelligence and group performance, and "having a few 'token' women on scientific teams does not appear to be sufficient in order to improve performance."
In other words, our actions now will have an effect on future STEM team performance and allow women in STEM teams to perform to their fullest.
I was fortunate to be keynote speaker for the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training's Alice Through The Looking Glass IWD event to encourage young women in high school to choose entrepreneurship and non-traditional STEM careers and in the process, break through glass ceilings.
Having a mechanical and aerospace engineering background and currently the Head of Operations for Skyborne's aerial services division, I'd like to lead by example and show what opportunities are available to these young women.
The splendid Salt House in Cairns was also host to an IWD luncheon to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. I was privileged as guest speaker to present what we can achieve with drones, ranging from beautiful promotional material to aerial photogrammetry and LiDAR surveys.
One of the themes for IWD is to challenge stereotypes and how better to demonstrate this than to extend what we expect from drones (photography) and the image of the drone pilot and engineer?
One of the most groundbreaking examples of this technology is the discovery of a huge Mayan megalopolis in the Guatemalan jungle - the overgrown vegetation has hidden the pyramids and roads for centuries. Flying over the site with a UAV equipped with LiDAR, the laser beams penetrate through the treetops and to the rock structures beneath, allowing for even more research possibilities and adding to our collective knowledge of previous civilisations.
International Women's Day doesn't start or end on March 8 - it's a continual challenge to our inherent biases, to genuinely respect the abilities of each and every person, and paying attention to our day-to-day behaviours.
Skyborne supports giving opportunities to capable individuals and will continue to stand for equality.