WINDHOEK - Lî Rossouw says people should never let their gender be the measure or limit of their capabilities. The First Officer flying for Air Namibia was speaking to Youth Corner on the notion that men belong in the cockpit and not women.
“I have experienced this first hand; I have been told to my face how I do not deserve to be where I am because I am a woman. I heard how a female receiving a bursary in aviation is sexist, as opposed to it helping the minority gain representation in the industry, which is really what it is about,” revealed Rossouw.
The 28-year-old said she has been overlooked, underestimated, criticised and judged – all because she is female. It is a tough position to be in, as she constantly has to prove she is good enough to be where she is and that she deserves it.
In aviation, the first officer (FO) is the second pilot, also referred to as the co-pilot of an aircraft. The first officer is the second-in-command of the aircraft to the captain, who is the legal commander.
How she became a pilot was an out-of-the-blue adventure. “I remember coming home from a family holiday in South Africa when I was 13 years old, and I was fortunate enough to sit in the cockpit for the duration of the flight. After that experience, I was dead set on becoming a pilot and flying for our national airline,” reminisced Rossouw.
Having only been in the aviation industry for almost four years, Rossouw said she recently joined The Ninety-Nines under the African section. “This is an international organisation of only women pilots that provides networking, mentoring and flight scholarship opportunities. This is the kind of sisterhood, support and example we need to be providing for each other,” expressed Rossouw.
She stated there is a need to show that it has been done and it can be done. “The more we encourage, help, share and teach one another, the more representation we will gain in the industry – and the more females in the industry will be normalised,” she asserted.
She opines that the most difficult aspect of the aviation industry as a woman is staying confident and motivated throughout the adversity and naysaying.
“I always try to remind myself that when people use gender to establish superiority, it has more to do with them – and not me. I choose to let my abilities, intelligence and skills speak for themselves,” expressed Rossouw.
One of the lessons that she learned about the aviation industry is to remain modest. “Stay humble! It is imperative to remember how small you are in the grand scheme of things, the extent of the task you are undertaking each day, and the severity of your responsibilities. Secondly, remain compassionate. In an industry driven and fuelled by technology and innovation – with exhaustive expectations, it is so easy to forget how human we are. Stay caring, stay kind and stay thoughtful,” she concluded.