We are living in an age where people are breaking all kinds of gender stereotypes. After all, there is no fixed rule as to what a specific gender can or cannot do.
As featured in Star2, three young Malaysian women certainly have broken traditional gender stereotypes by pursuing their dreams of flying and they have now become the first female cadets for Malaysia Airlines! Congrats, ladies!
Previously, it was more common for women who work in the aviation industry to apply for jobs as flight attendants or ground staff. Out of 130,000 pilots in the world, only 3,000 (3%) were female, according to the International Society of Women Pilots’ estimation in 2017.
However, things are slowly taking a turn as women are now given more chances to join the aviation industry as pilots in Malaysia. As of mid-2017, low-cost carrier AirAsia has 55 female pilots. Wow, that’s great!
And now, Malaysia Airlines has taken after AirAsia and recently launched its female pilot programme, which is now open for enrolment. Go for it, gurl!
Now, let’s meet the three women who are the first female cadets with Malaysia Airlines. They’re so young too!
1.Vivian Foo Hooi Wen, 22
Foo graduated from the Malaysian Flying Academy in January 2017, and joined Malaysia Airlines as a cadet in October 2017. It was always her dad’s dream to be a pilot, but he never made it as he couldn’t afford it. So, she was motivated to achieve his dream for him, and fell in love with flying along the way.
Foo’s family is supportive of her ambition, whereas some of her extended family members may need a bit more time adjusting to this ‘non-traditional’ vocation for females.
“They feel that being a pilot is an odd career choice for a woman, as it’s not a nine-to-five job. They have concerns about safety issues and the high cost (of studying to become a pilot),” she said.
When asked about what she loves about flying, she immediately responded without hesitation, “The view!”
“Not many can say they have a view above the clouds from their office window. I love the challenges that come with the job too. No two days are the same, and I have to be on my toes at all times.”
“Finally, to be able to wear the uniform, especially the gold bars of Malaysia Airlines, gives me and my parents the utmost pride,” she added.
She then advised young women who wish to pursue the same career path to go for it as the sky is the limit. She said one should never give up on their dreams despite negative comments from people.
“It will be worth it once you achieve it,” she said, adding that women should not feel intimidated in the male-dominated industry.
“Women should be motivated and supported so that they too can be successful in the industry. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, you can still be a successful pilot.” Amen, sister!
2. Wang Wen Chien, 25
For Wang, she was hooked on flying when her dad took her for a “Fly for Fun” one-day pilot course in Subang when she was a teen.
“I was fascinated… especially during take off and landing. As passengers, we usually sit in the cabin, so we don’t get to see all the action upfront,” she said.
Wang graduated from the Malaysian Flying Academy in 2016 and became a Malaysia Airlines cadet in August 2017 after undergoing an aviation course in Sydney before that.
She is the only one among the other two who has flown an actual aircraft during line-training. She flew to a few cities including Jakarta, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City.
When asked what she enjoys most about flying, she replied: “Learning about the different airports we fly to, being able to work with different sets of crew, and landing the aircraft.”
Wang is proud to be one of the few women pilots with Malaysia Airlines. “It is one of the greatest opportunities of my life, and I’m grateful for it. I’m happy that I get to use the call sign ‘Malaysian’. Looking at the female pilots walking in the airport when I was doing the aviation course in Australia made me proud to be in an industry long dominated by men, and I’m glad women are now given an equal opportunity to become pilots,” she said.
3. Nur Waie Hidayah Mohamad Rasidin, 21
Growing up in Abu Dhabi where her father is based, Hidayah’s choice of becoming a pilot was out of the question as her father is also one.
“After graduating from high school in Abu Dhabi in 2013, I returned to Malaysia and went to flying school in Melaka,” she said.
Being Foo and Wang’s junior in flying school, Hidayah graduated two years ago before returning to Abu Dhabi to be with her family, and joined Malaysia Airlines as a cadet in December 2017.
“It’s lovely to be in the Malaysia Airlines family because everyone is caring, friendly, and helpful. Even though it’s an industry dominated by men, every cadet is treated the same, whether you’re male or female. I’m glad it is the way it is – this is how every job should be. What you can or cannot do is not determined by gender, but how hard you work for it,” she shared.
“My dad is a pilot so I grew up in the industry. Travel was really fun, and seeing my dad fly the plane was really cool. I’ve always fancied how magical it feels when an airplane flies. I look up to my dad and have always wanted to be like him.”
However, her own father was worried for her at first as he had also gone through the process of becoming a pilot himself.
“He knows that it’s not an easy job. It requires a lot of discipline, sacrifice, studying, and training,” she said.
She then shared that she would get funny responses from people when she tells them that she is training to be a pilot.
“Nine out of 10 times, they usually get really big-eyed and excited, and they’ll ask me a lot of questions. Female pilots are still a rarity. To some extent, it makes me feel unique, and being unique makes me happy.”
Hidayah advises aspiring female pilots to do what makes them happy too!
“There’s nothing stopping you. Pursuing your dream is a chance you shouldn’t miss, so study hard and seize the day,” she said.
What an inspiring story! We are so happy for these three amazing women who have pursued their dreams despite the challenges. Congrats Foo, Wang and Hidayah!
Also read: Meet the Young M’sians Who Are Receiving a Prestigious Award From the Queen of England