Women have always been a big part of aviation. Some pioneered alongside the Wright brothers. Others set records for distance and speed. Still others ferried warbirds and risked it all in defense of our nation. Today's female pilots fly transports, fighter jets, airlines, charters, and teach others their craft (many say women make the best flight instructors, by far). Still, when you walk into flight schools across the world the vast majority of people mingling in the halls or hunched over iPads and laptops are men.
Despite the great contributions women have made to aviation, many still consider flying to be a guy thing. Flight school lobbies are often decorated with masculine images—posters of fighter jets with afterburners ablaze, high fives, button-up white shirts and epaulets, posters of seemingly complicated jet panels. The only thing missing is the testosterone-scented air freshener. Imagine, for a moment, your wife or daughter going into a typical flight school to get information on flight training. Would she feel welcome? Odds are, maybe not.
There's no secret to marketing your training services to women. It's pretty simple. Just make them feel, on their first contact with your school or club, that they are welcome and not alone. Don't make women have to look past tough-guy imagery on your website and print media. Try to avoid boisterous guy-talk in the hallways.
Here are five things you can do to present a more female-friendly environment:
Research tells us that men tend to be task-oriented consumers. They often see their goal of learning to fly as a task, and the straightest line between deciding to go to flight school and getting a pilot certificate is often the deciding factor in choosing a training provider. That’s not always the case with women, who often view the shopping and selection process as a journey of discovery rather than a just a task to be completed. Flight training may be seen as an adventure unto itself—an exciting time of learning and excitement, opening doors to a new world of fun and adventure. Flight school owners should take heed of these differences and tailor their marketing messages and environments accordingly.
Above all, marketing to women should not pander or patronize. Your female students will be every bit as focused and driven as their male counterparts, and they will demand solid value for their aviation dollar. A growing female flight student market creates serious opportunities, important not only as a dynamic new customer base for your school, but also as a vital source of new blood and fresh ideas for an industry many would agree is sorely in need of both.
William Woodbury is a flight instructor and freelance writer in Southern California.