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We need gender equality in the drone industry

Gender equality is a struggle in many fields and the drone market is no different

Sally French, well known for her popular Drone Girl website, will be a panelist at the upcoming InterDrone Conference in September.  The topic?  Women in the drone industry.  Gender equality is an important topic for all of us.  As the father of two daughters I am passionate about ensuring a bright future for them and ensuring that the world sees them as individuals is a key to that.

Sally’s website starts her bio with this:  “If you spot a drone in the sky and the pilot on the ground stands tall at 4’10”, is wearing a sundress and has a cup of coffee nearby, then you’ve probably found Drone Girl.”, so we begin here with our interview questions.

Q. Are you really 4’10” or is that only if you are standing on your tip-toes? :-)

That’s not entirely true; if you include the drone, I can be as tall as 1,000 feet! 😉

Q. At InterDrone you will be speaking about Women and Drones (aka gender equality)  which is a very important. In your opinion, are enough women getting involved in this industry?

I’m not sure if “are enough women getting involved” is the right question. I don’t think it has to be a quota. It doesn’t matter to me if 1,000,000 women in the world are involved with drones or if just 1 woman is. If it only happens that 1 woman in the world cares about drones, then that’s enough for me.

What really matters is are 100% of those women getting treated with respect. For the most part, the industry has been really open and accepting of women. However, there is a small percentage that is not. Look at marketing campaigns, “booth babes”, the executive leadership at drone companies (which for the majority of drone companies is 80-100% male), and even just the word unmanned (which is male-centric in itself). Those factors all contribute to pushing women out of the drone industry, when maybe they would have otherwise been a part of it.

I’ve seen drone companies market sales on their sites with language like “this drone is now 20% off, which will surely make your wife happy.” While on the surface I don’t really find this offensive, it implies that men buy and fly drones, and women don’t. That’s not true! But until the rest of the industry stops perceiving women as some sort of anomaly, then there’s still work to do.

The only quota I’m working to reach is gaining respect for 100% of the women in this industry.

Q. Drones will play an increased role in our economy, creating many more jobs. How do we get more women interested and participating in this growth?

Hmmm, to be honest, I’m not sure what we can do for women specifically other than avoiding the prominent sexism as stated above.

In general, drones are ripe for economic growth and development. It’s such a new field that allows for so much creativity. You don’t need any advanced educational degree to fly a small drone, so the industry is really accessible to anyone.

Q. If someone wants to start using drones, do you have any advice for them on how to get started?

Start flying! There are cheap copters for sale online. Don’t spend $1,000 on something you will inevitably crash. Start small, and work your way up.

Q. If there was one thing, either regulatory or technology, that could be changed to most improve your experiences with drones, what would it be?

Obviously profiting off drones is a major factor in hindering economic growth. People don’t want to break the law and illegally fly drones for commercial purposes, but people also need to make money for their work. Right now people can file for Section 333, but the process is laborious and not conducive to large scale economic growth.

Q. Sally, how do we create gender equality and advance the field for women?

I think it’s up to men to stand up for women and change what they’re doing.

I once had a conversation with a famous CEO in drones about women in tech, and he said “I don’t think it’s possible to be both beautiful and smart.” It’s really shocking to hear that. Society puts so much pressure on women to physically look a certain way, but there’s no way you can be in the industry and not be smart. What’s a woman supposed to do when she hears something like that? That attitude needs to change.

I also think it’s important for men to call out other men when they see instances of sexism. Forums post pictures of scantily clad women posing with drones. I hardly think that helps encourage women to join those forums. It’s up to men to call out the people who post those things and say, “I don’t really think those images foster the type of community we want.” The only way we can help women in tech is with the support of a majority of men — so speak up, men!

More about InterDrone.

InterDrone, The International Drone Conference and Exposition, September 9-10-11 in Las Vegas, is the first global scale conference for the builders, flyers and buyers of commercial drones. It will feature a two-day technical conference for engineers and software developers, an overlapping conference for commercial drone “buyers and flyers” in more than a dozen vertical market segments, and a drone business conference. 2500+ attendees.  Receive a $150 discount off the prevailing rate of the 3 day pass by inserting the code FLYIT or a $25 discount off any expo pass with code EXPO when prompted at www.interdrone.com

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