Aviation welcomes women

Nicole Aikens

Freshmen join support group

Most girls grow up wanting to be princesses, not pilots. Girls just do not go into aeronautics.

Maj. Maureen McFarland, academic program director of aeronautics, said on average, females make up 12 percent of the students in the aeronautics program at Kent State. In the 2009 fall semester, the incoming freshman class was only 14 percent female.

And the faculty does not necessarily know the reason why.

“Part of it might be the perception of the aviation field,” McFarland said. “It is a very male-dominated field.”

Kris Palcho, a Kent State alumna who works for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the lack of women in the aeronautics program might come from a lack of female support.

Even though they do not have a definitive answer to why girls do not join the aeronautics program, they do have an idea of how to support them and keep them in the field.

That’s where the Flying Black Squirrels, Kent State’s chapter of Women in Aviation International, come into play.

Women in Aviation International is an organization for women in the aeronautics field to have a place for networking. The organization also provides scholarships and an annual conference.

“I think the primary purpose is to give the support system where the university lacks,” Palcho said.

The Flying Black Squirrels is made up of five freshmen girls. Although the group is not exclusive to females, it was established to encourage females in the field of aeronautics.

Flying Black Squirrels gives women in aeronautics at Kent State and in the community a group to call their own.

“There are a lot of guys,” said Bethany Mialki, co-president and member of the Flying Black Squirrels. “They’re obviously going to crack jokes at you.”

The group is a support system and a networking device, and it also gives students an edge above their competitors.

Mialki, freshman aeronautics major, said McFarland gave the girls some advice about Women in Aviation International by saying, “If you are a woman, you will stand out in aviation. If you stand out in Women in Aviation, you are bound to be successful.”

Palcho said her goal for this group of freshmen is to get involved enough to be able to mentor the next group of freshmen.

Along with the leaders in the group at Kent State, people outside of Kent State in the aeronautics field are able to join the group.

“We’ve also opened it up to the outside community to provide some continuity,” McFarland said.

Both McFarland and Palcho said the girls in the aeronautics program needed female role models, and they both act as those role models for the girls.

Palcho said her role in the group is to assist McFarland in being the support for the girls because McFarland is the only female faculty the girls in the aeronautics program have.

Mialki said that support from the faculty helps make having such a young group less daunting.

“Because it’s just us five, there isn’t anyone to disappoint,” Mialki said. “Anything we do is beyond what they expected.”

Contact college of technology Nicole Aikens

at [email protected].