International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8. The theme for this year is #BreakTheBias, and the official IWD website explains the meaning of this year’s theme: “whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. However, knowing that bias exists isn’t enough; action is required to level the playing field. Individually, we’re all responsible for our thoughts and actions—all day, every day. We can break the bias in our communities. We can break the bias in our workplaces.”
In recognition of the importance of this Day, Flying Labs and WeRobotics shared their voices in a video made just for the day. In addition, we held a virtual Tea Party event on March 7 to celebrate the successes of women in the Flying Labs Network and their contributions to accelerating the SDGs within their communities. Participants also reinforced their commitment to breaking societal bias by mentoring and empowering girls within their communities with the necessary knowledge and information to join the STEM field workforce or their career of choice.
Tinah from Ugandan Flying Labs was the host of the virtual event. In addition, there were speakers from Chile, Bolivia, Nigeria, Panama, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Panama, Peru, and Ghana Flying Labs who shared their career experiences as GIS, Drone pilots, etc., to inspire others participating in the event. The virtual tea was very interactive as the panelists discussed several topics to inspire, educate the audience and raise awareness about the bias women are faced with while navigating male-dominated careers.
On the meaning of International Women’s Day means for women, Dania from Panama Flying Labs responded thus:
“Today, we are celebrating more than 100 years of women who have fought for the right to be recognized as individuals, not to occupy traditional roles, but instead freely choose whatever careers they so desire. These heroes have already paved the way for young girls and women to make their career choices freely. For me, this day reminds me to never give up on my dreams as a woman and within the Flying Labs network to continue promoting youth programs for girls and boys, to accelerate the achievements of the SDGs within our communities for a sustainable tomorrow.”
Unis Lebbie of Sierra Leone Flying Labs offered some Career advancements tips for women seeking to explore careers as drone pilots, GIS experts, etc.
“We are not in the GIS space by mistake; we have worked hard to get here. While it is nice to listen to other people, do not let the voices from outside drown your inner voice. The GIS/STEM field is a continuously evolving space; therefore, women should constantly learn and stay updated with the latest tech trends information and get certification to add a feather to their cap to boost their chances of accessing more opportunities. Furthermore, women should take advantage of the Flying Labs network, the opportunities, and resources provided by WeRobotics and learn from other women’s experiences.”
On elevating women’s visibility in a male-dominated field, Afolabi Olujumoke from Nigeria Flying Labs had this to say:
“As women, we need to create awareness about the opportunities and potentials in the GIS field. So many women may not realize that the GIS space exists or that women can have successful and fulfilling careers in this space. We are responsible for educating women and young girls about the various career paths or options available for them, depending on their interests. Catching them young through training and awareness is essential, particularly in Africa. Young girls need to know early about the career prospects available for Drone pilots. In addition, young girls need to hear more about the success stories of women in the field to inspire them and know that they are capable of succeeding in any field they so desire.
On building a sustainable network:
“To create a sustainable network, women should have career plans and goals, be creative, engage in various learning activities, and be surrounded by inspiring like-minded women. For women in the Flying Labs network, as the organization continues to grow, our responsibility is to grow and learn continuously, include our communities in our projects, and through this, you will find partners to work with.” – Dania, Panama Flying Labs.
The discussion also addressed challenges women face in a male-dominated field; the critical role organizations play in elevating women’s visibility in the drone industry, and the need for everyone to contribute their wisdom and expertise or ideas to empower other women. There was also a Q&A session for participants to join the conversation.
The host for the virtual event, Tinah, closed the event with a thought-provoking message to attendees and speakers:
“Let us continue to empower our young girls and women and build confidence in them as future decision-makers, and to aspire to join the STEM fields. Knowledge transfer is essential for women; let us not hoard information but share information with women around us. The weight is neither too big nor small for you; it is appropriate for you to take up any role in the tech space. Robotics, GIS, and Drones are fast evolving; therefore, we should continue learning, reading, and growing our skills to stay ahead of the curve. As members of the Flying Labs Network, we are fortunate to be in a supportive network; the environment enables us to be knowledgeable through webinars, updates, and technical support. Let us continue to inspire others and aspire to ourselves, be trailblazers, start building now and together; we can continue to forge a gender-equal world!”