Ivana Alvares-Marshall

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! You can achieve anything you set your mind to. I have recently been working with a girls school in Malawi conducting a STEM course.

Country of origin

Malawi

Which company do you work for?

I am the African Section Governor of a non-profit organization of International Women Pilots called the Ninety-Nines. We are all volunteers. It is the only and first organization for women pilots established in 1929 by 99 women pilots founded by Amelia Earhart. The organization currently holds over 6000 members divided into chapters and sections depending on their geographical locations from 44 countries.

What is your specific area of specialisation?

Aviation – We promote aviation through education.

How long have you been in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields?

More than 20 years.

As a woman in a male dominated industry, what has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

I have experienced discrimination on numerous occasions in my life. I have experienced gender prejudice, discrimination in the workplace, as well as experiencing racism in just ordinary day-to-day life. I am not someone who lets this affect me, nor do I take it to heart. There isn’t one single strategy for success that will work across different situations. One has to learn to adapt, develop tough skin and persevere. Being a woman in a male dominated environment can appear daunting. As long as you stand your ground, along with focus, knowledge, and support, you will be able to face these challenges much more than you think.

What inspired you to join this industry?

At the tender age of 10 years old I dreamed of becoming a pilot. The dream started when I did a round the world trip and was immigrating to New Zealand with my parents. The round a world trip was not meant to be so, however, circumstances made it happen that way. When I completed my high school education, I still held onto my dream of flying and so it came to be.

What changes, if any, have you seen in your field with regards to women in your field?

Women have been flying since the early 1900s, however, most women in aviation were restricted to working in support roles. Today, work for women in aviation is diverse—astronauts, pilots, aircraft, technicians, engineers, air traffic controllers, and more. Still, in 2021 only 6% of pilots are women.

How can we attract more women to consider a career in the STEM fields?

Raise awareness through education. Introduce grass root programmes, exposing girls at a young age. Having more visible relatable role models. The need for mentors and teachers is so important in breaking down the barriers. Adapting cultural barriers and practices.

If you were to advise other young women starting their careers in the tech or within the STEM fields, what is the one thing you would say to them?

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! You can achieve anything you set your mind to. I have recently been working with a girls school in Malawi conducting a STEM course. Two of the girls wanted to quit the course on day one as they were finding it quite difficult. I encouraged them to continue and worked side by side with them. They were filled with gratitude as they were now able to have a full understanding of the course they were doing and actually found it easy as they progressed. When things get tough don’t give up! Keep trying till you get it! That is what will develop your strength and character.

When not working, what do you do for fun?

I volunteer to conduct STEM camps under the African Section Ninety-Nines International Women Pilots Organisation as we partnered with the Airbus Foundation in order to encourage more girls into aviation. My experience doing that has allowed me to meet people, use my skills to help others, and contribute to our community. I also am keen on wellness activities, exercise, outdoor activities and do a great deal of socialising.

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Mindfulness in Aviation

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