Pilot project targets young female hockey players

Posted by Amey Doyle on April 16, 2014
Pilot project targets young female hockey players

Air Canada affiliate recruiting at provincial women’s hockey championship, selling merits of career as pilot not flight attendant.

An Ontario airline is recruiting hockey players at the provincial women’s championshipthis weekend, encouraging young girls to become pilots in a male-dominated industry.

The thinking is that if these girls can overcome stereotypes to play hockey, they might have the traits to work in an almost exclusively male field.

It’s the brainchild of Air Georgian president Eric Edmondson, who coached women’s hockey for 15 years in Barrie and has a 17-year-old daughter, Ally, who plays the game.

“It came about because of the under-representation of female pilots,” Edmondson says. “We have always been aggressive in that way and do have 10 to 12 per cent female pilots. It’s a great job for females and we want to increase the numbers. ”

Gender stereotypes are often exposed at job fairs, he said.

“The guys would ask about being a pilot and the girls would ask about becoming flight attendants,” he says. “Girls should know that aviation is a great field to get into.”

The airline offers a cadet program starting at age 18 with qualified applicants taking a 48-week course in Florida for $60,000 (U.S.). Graduates can work at Air Georgian for four years before moving on to Air Canada. Air Georgian, a regional partner of Air Canada founded in 1994, has 14 planes in operation with five more on order.

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and Air Georgian pilot Mallory Deluce, a former national team player, handed out brochures to bantam- and midget-age players (14 to 17 years old) at Mississauga’s Meadowvale Four Rinks on Friday.

“I believe hockey really helped to develop many skills that can transfer to being a pilot,” says Deluce, niece of Porter Airlines CEO Bob Deluce.

“Teamwork is important, because as a pilot you have to work with other pilots, gate agents, ground crew, to make sure everything runs smoothly and safely.”

Jennifer Salo, spokesperson for Air Georgian, says the airline wants girls to think about becoming pilots by Grade 10, an idea that led to a partnership with the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association for this weekend’s tournament.

“We don’t pay for the cadet program, but we will be giving special recognition to young female hockey players,” she says. “(They) have the courage to take on male-dominated roles and they also have the skill, perseverance and teamwork understanding, as well as spatial recognition and aptitude, that transfers well to becoming airline pilots. They have already broken through the mould.”

Meghan Agosta-Marciano knows about fighting to get what she wants. The three-time Olympic hockey gold medallist says she spent years trying to convince her father to let her play.

“I think it’s amazing that they’re trying to recruit more women to become pilots, to be honest. More women to do everything is good,” the 27-year-old says.

Brenda Andress, commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, doesn’t think there’s a “mould” for female hockey players.

“If you’re looking for aggressive, outside-the-box thinkers, that’s a hockey player for sure,” she says, “(but) you can never say: If you’re a hockey player, you’re going to be good at this career or that career.”

The five-team professional league has players who are police officers and firefighters, but also marketing specialists and physiotherapists. The most common profession among Montreal Stars players is teaching, traditionally female-dominated. Stars general manager Meg Hewings says the notion that women face a male-dominated hockey experience is behind the times.

“If you’re 30 or over, you had to struggle to play and make your own way in sport and we’re still working at that at the higher levels in terms of building a pro league,” Hewings says. “I don’t know how many young girls grow up facing much adversity playing these days.”

Edmondson says if recruitment proves successful this weekend, it will expand across Canada and include other sports.

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