Editor's Note: Things Not to Do at a Press Conference
This month, we decided to introduce a little something to our regular newsletter of features. Without further ado, I introduce to you: the Editor's Note! Ash and I will take it in turns to update you on all things She Works, so that you can learn a little more about the website and the process that goes behind running it (with some added advice on running a website, interviewing, editing etc along the way). Being our first time creating something like this (even though the site is now reaching its first birthday), we have been introduced to a number of strange experiences that any professional must be readily trained for. This has meant we've spent a lot of time bumbling through workshops, meetings and, most recently, a press conference, which took place two weeks ago at the easyJet hangar at Luton Airport. I happened to be invited to attend out of sheer 'right place, right time'. I was in contact with easyJet concerning an interview with one of their female pilots, and - whaddya know? - they're running a press conference a few days later, why don't I come along and interview her there?
Combining the trip with my drive home for Christmas break from university, I set off from Lancaster to Winchester, via Luton. Once I had parked up and walked over to the building, I was ushered in fairly quickly. I signed my name in a visitor's log - my little 'She Works' looking pathetically small underneath the scrawls of 'SKY NEWS', 'VOGUE PORTUGAL' and 'THE INDEPENDENT' - and was taken to a large area with free food and drink. Sat like a sullen teenager with my sparkling water and surrounded by chatting journalists in suits, I felt like an absolute mess. The three hour drive had not done me any favours. I'm pretty sure I had Galaxy chocolate crumbs melted into my black jeans. After five minutes of aimless scrolling through Instagram on my phone, I was escorted into the main part of the hangar by a wonderful woman who worked for easyJet and was helping with the event. Twenty seats were lined up in four rows in front of a small podium and stage, and behind that was a huge easyJet commercial plane. I chatted with the woman for a bit and she offered me a seat. Considering there were at least forty other journalists there, I protested, but she insisted and I sat down, feeling a total fraud.
EasyJet’s CEO Carolyn McCall stepped onto the platform and announced their success in doubling the number of female pilots from 6% to 12% since 2015 with their Amy Johnson Female Pilot Initiative, and they were now unveiling their new target of 20% of new cadets being female by 2020. They are working with schools and colleges to encourage more women to be pilots, and researching why the number is as low as it is. A number of current female pilots for easyJet spoke about their own experiences, including customers complaining about their discomfort at being flown by a female pilot. Ms McCall also pointed out that every female captain in the world right now could fit into an A380 airliner. The President of the British Women Pilots’ Association Julie Westhorp also spoke about it being an ‘achievable and viable career for women’ and that she looked ‘forward to the day that a female flight crew doesn’t cause comment.’
It was amazing - the initiative, the women behind it, the pilots sharing their own stories. Having determined that I would ask a question during the Q&As, my hands shook so much that I had to uncross my legs to steady my laptop on my knees. Microphone handed over with an encouraging smile, I managed to babble out, ‘Hi, bear with me here, I run my own website for women in careers, my name is Isabella Ford, Hi. Errr...I just wanted to ask, to both Carolyn and also any of the pilots, why would you recommend becoming a pilot to young women? What are its perks, its selling points?’ Read that again, and as you do, picture a jittery microphone in front of your face and the red-hot flush of nerves in your cheeks. The answer was smooth and fast - you get to travel to all sorts of places and the love of flying is what drives the current pilots. The thrill that comes with doing what you love. Conference over, those that came to speak to me about what my site was about were met with an exclamation of ‘I COULDN’T STOP SHAKING’, until I managed to calm myself down enough to interview one of the extraordinary pilots, Sarah. So whilst not the coolest of situations, I had sat down at the big girl table and now knew how not to do the next press conference I will (hopefully) be invited to.
And what have we been working on? Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing a number of interviews for you to absorb all the advice you want from, including ones with a historian, a freelance reporter, a pilot (no kidding?), an author and two ‘WomenToWatch’ in law and radio. Ash and I have also been working on the introduction of a forum to the website, to give you guys the opportunity to ask questions and offer advice to each other, as well as to tell us about careers, questions and women you would like to see featured on the site. Finally, you may have seen that we are looking for more people to join our team, with intern positions opening to people outside of Lancaster (my personal stomping ground). Feel free to apply by popping me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s it from me for another month - Happy New Year and speak to you in 2017!