Breaking gender barriersAs the world celebrates International Women’s Day today, the ladies in the aviation sector are observing International Women in Aviation Week, which began on March 5 and concludes on March 11.To commemorate this, the National Air Transport Association (NATA) is hosting a series of activities and, on Tuesday, had a panel discussion at the University of Guyana with the trailbreakers in the sector.The panel featured veteran pilots Annette Arjoon-Martins; Captain Christine Marcus, who heads the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Drone Operations Unit; GCAA General Counsel Amanza Desir; Captain Claudia Brown and youngNATA President Annette Arjoon-Martins, GCAA General Counsel Amanza Desir, Devia Tamradhwaj, Captain Claudia Brown and Captain Christine Marcusengineer Devia Tamradhwaj.The Women in Aviation Week was launched in 2010 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first female pilot being issued with a commercial licence.According to Arjoon-Martins, who also heads NATA, the panel discussion is just one aspect of the many activities they have planned.“The reason we chose the University of Guyana (for the discussion) is because through the pioneering work of Ms Roxanne Reece, Ms Sharon Correira and Ms Alicia Trim for the first time the University of Guyana, as of January last, is now offering a Diploma in Aviation Management. We wanted to hold it here to attract students to become interested in the aviation industry,” she said.When asked about the plans for advancing the interests of women in the sector, she said that they would be embarking on a mentorship programme. She added that the sector also needed more women explaining that the current women have been breaking all the barriers in what was typically a male-dominated industry.“We have several avenues to follow up on… we will be holding sessions every three months and we will be doing school outreaches to guide students. The intention is to do (panel discussions) at least four times a year,” she explained.In relating her experience as a young engineer, Tamradhwaj said that at the Ogle Airport, there were only five female engineers and made the call for that to be bettered. She noted that females were more detail-oriented and as such, if they wanted to join the aeronautical engineering fraternity, then they should not be dissuaded.“We are doing many jobs that are conventionally a man’s job…we have a lot of females that are taking up jobs that are traditionally a man’s job…,” she noted.“Women have to make an unusual amount of effort in order to be successful in most fields and if she is to fail, you will not hear she does not have what it takes, you will hear women don’t have what it takes…if we empower one another, we will reach much further, much faster,” Tamradhwaj said.Meanwhile, Marcus urged the women to take advantage of the emerging need for drones. She noted that drones were machines of the future and if women joined that industry, then it would be a ground-breaking path for them.“This (drones) brings new opportunities for everyone. Everyone especially women, women who otherwise have to break in to the aviation industry – a man’s world, break the social and cultural norms of the industry,” she said.Overall, the session saw the panellists being engaged by the women in the audience about the opportunities in the sector, while the men in attendance honoured them for breaking the barriers.