Women and The Flying Effect™

Rich Stowell, Master Flight Instructor

Learning is a change in behavior as a result of experience. It is largely a psychological process, and self-concept is a powerful determinant.[1] The prospect of new learning, however, often creates barriers to success in men and women alike. For women in particular, fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and flying have traditionally been areas where barriers to new learning have prevented them from participating in numbers equal to men: the ratio of male-to-female pilots, for instance, is seventeen-to-one. Whether subtle or blatant, sentiments such as “it’s too hard” and “girls can’t do that” have resulted in women avoiding these and other career fields altogether, or giving up when encountering difficulties along the way.

But flying is transformational; we call this The Flying Effect. During Take Flight Workshops—designed not to create more female pilots, but to empower women to achieve peak performance in their personal and professional lives—carefully facilitated discussions are combined with piloting general aviation aircraft to harness the influence adrenaline has on new learning. Research has revealed impressive results for female participants:[2]

  • 98% report an increase in self-confidence
  • 91% demonstrate an improved ability to adapt to conditions that required new learning
  • 81% come to new understandings about the role and value of collaboration in tackling difficult and risky tasks

A comprehensive assessment by independent evaluators during two DOT-funded workshops confirmed these results. Specifically, Take Flight Workshops influenced the following nine skills either positively or very positively for 23 of 24 female teachers and students: collaboration with others, leadership, confidence, ability to relate new metaphors to academic work, ability to adapt, communication, decision making, respect of the opinions of others, and comfort in risk-taking.

The assessment also confirmed that these workshops promote enhanced risk-taking, impart a new understanding of general aviation, and encourage the introduction of aviation-related content into their curricula. Thus, the workshop experience was transferred to experience in the classroom and beyond.

Addressing barriers to new learning through transformative events such as the proven Take Flight Workshops is crucial if women are to advance in meaningful numbers in heretofore male-dominated careers. Further, we believe the Take Flight Workshops could be equally effective for minorities and men.


[1] Aviation Instructor’s Handbook, FAA-H-8083-9A, 2008, 2-7, 2-8.