Have you ever seen that video on YouTube where a class of 66 children are asked to draw a firefighter, a surgeon and a fighter pilot? Sixty-one of the kids draw men – only five draw women.
It’s unsurprising, given that gender stereotypes are apparently defined between the ages of five and seven.
Helpfully, brands such as Virgin Atlantic are taking steps to tackle this. The airline has teamed up with Barbie to launch a new campaign focused on encouraging more young girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, and potentially a career in aviation. The result is three new Barbie dolls representing a pilot, an engineer and a member of cabin crew.
True, the 60-year-old fashion doll might not be your average symbol of gender equality. But these new Barbies are important for what they represent to those young girls – chiefly that they can become anything they want, pilots and engineers included.
Thankfully, the industry doesn’t have to rely just on dolls to inspire the next generation and attract much-needed talent.
In this week’s TTG, we highlight one future role model already determined to realise her aviation dream. Eighteen-year-old Afghan refugee Zainab Hossaini arrived in Britain last year following a perilous two-year-long journey across Europe. Now living in Canterbury, she is taking flying lessons thanks to funding from Sunvil and managing director Chris Wright, who personally paid for one of her lessons. Wright is now appealing for help from the sector to enable Zainab to achieve her ambition of becoming a pilot.
Barbie might help girls to think big, but travel needs real-life role models such as Zainab to show young girls they can do – and be – whatever they want.