Image: Smithsonian Institution, Great Images in NASA
In celebration of International Women’s Day on Marche 8th Brainy Girl’s Guide to Business is highlighting the achievements of successful women, past and present. In this article I take a look at what you can learn from pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart.
Amelia Earhart rose to fame when she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She went on to break numerous aviation records before her disappearance in July 1937, whilst attempting to become the first woman to fly around the world. Such were her achievements that when her plane disappeared the US Government conducted the most extensive naval land and sea search in history at the cost of $4 Million. Sadly the plane and crew were never found.
Amelia faced numerous financial and prejudicial obstacles along the way but never let them stop her. Here are 5 lessons you can learn from Amelia Earhart.
1. Study successful women who have gone before you
Long before she took her first ride in an aeroplane, Amelia kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about successful women. The clippings included women from a variety of predominantly male-oriented fields such as law, film production, management, advertising and mechanical engineering. She took inspiration from these women and was quite determined she could do anything she set her mind to.
2. Follow your passion and don’t give up
Amelia left school in 1915 and became a nurse’s auxiliary during World War I. After the war she completed college and then worked as a social worker. It wasn’t until 1921 that she took her first ride in an aeroplane, after which she became hooked. She saved up her own money to buy her first plane just 6 months after taking her first ride in one but it wasn’t until 1928, when she was 30, that she made the flight across the Atlantic. Only then was she able to focus all her time and efforts on her passion.
3. Don’t be afraid to be a pioneer
Amelia was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic but she wasn’t the first to try. In fact three women had died earlier that year attempting the crossing. I’m not suggesting that you risk your life in pursuit of your dream but just that you bear in mind that where others have failed you may succeed. Someone has to be the first.
Why not you?
Amelia didn’t just become the first woman to make the transatlantic flight. She racked up numerous other speed, altitude and distance ‘firsts’. And not all of her records were ‘firsts’ just for a female pilot. For example, she was the first person to make the flight across the Pacific from Honolulu to California, a flight which was also the first civilian flight to carry a two-way radio.
4. Be an expert in your field
Amelia wasn’t just an aviator. She wrote several books, worked as an official for the National Aeronautics Association, held a vice president of public relations position for an airline, lectured and became aviation editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. She was in every sense an expert in her field, helping her to challenge traditional thinking.
5. You can still be a woman in a man’s world
Amelia might have been a tom boy as a child but she didn’t remain one. As an aviator she refused to wear the garments typically donned by male pilots of the time, instead choosing to wear the iconic suits and dresses with a close fitting cap.
Amelia also surrounded herself with other successful women. She formed a friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt and helped form Ninety Nines, a women’s aviation club that still operates today.
Amelia Earhart was a brave and inspiring woman. Inspired herself by other women that had made their names in male-dominated industries, she followed her passion even though it was several years before she able to dedicate her time fully to it. She wasn’t afraid to take on challenges other’s wouldn’t and dedicated her time and energy to becoming an expert in the field of aviation, paving the way for other female aviators and women wanting to embark upon tradiationally ‘male’ careers. Today numerous scholarships and awards are given out every year in honour of her achievements as an aviator, pioneer and woman.
Amelia disappeared just two weeks before her 40th birthday. In a letter to her husband, in the event that she didn’t return, she wrote:
‘Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.’
What can you take from Amelia’s story? What legacy would you like to leave behind? Who has inspired you? I would love to hear your thoughts on Amelia and other inspirational women like her.
Information on Amelia Earhart courtesy of the Official Amelia Earhart Website.