Feature Article (Print)

A look at how female pilots’ careers took off captures high esteem

Southwest Airline Pilots’ Association’s feature story has the fliers tell their stories in their own voices.

At Southwest Airlines, 4 percent of the pilots are female.

An article titled “Full Rotation,” from the Southwest Airline Pilots’ Association, aims to tell their story.

“What they lack in numbers, however, they make up in enthusiasm with a love of flying and a love of the airline where they have been able to create a successful career,” according to the article by Ann Spencer, communications editor.

What made this article special was that Spencer interviewed several women, collected their stories, and compiled a feature article that showcases real voices, from female pilots who started in the 1980s to present day.

It also made the Southwest Airline Pilots’ Association the winner in the Best Feature Article (Print Publication) category in Ragan’s Employee Communications Awards for 2011.

It’s the story of how far women have come in the airline industry—and where they expect to go.

Here are a few voices:

“I grew up in the Panhandle of Texas and was fortunate to have several strong, independent ranching women as family members,” Becky said. “There was nothing that I considered that I could not pursue.”

Like many young girls, she listened to her dad. At age eight, when she said she wanted to be a pilot, he said, “They don’t let girls be pilots and they don’t let people with glasses be pilots, so I don’t think that’s a realistic goal.”

Capt. Margie Varuska … grew up always wanting to be a pilot, ever since she read Amelia Earhart’s biography in fifth grade. She got the chance in 1976 when the U.S. Air Force Academy opened its doors to women for the first time, graduating in 1980 and serving for six years on C-141 missions overseas.

The Southwest Airline Pilots Association is the sole collective bargaining agent for the more than 6,000 pilots of Southwest Airlines.

When Spencer started her career at SWAPA six years ago, she was determined to recognize women pilots and honor their contributions to aviation, Spencer says.

“I received many volunteers from an ‘all-call’ email inviting them to share their stories,” Spencer says. “I included them all and loved having a chance to learn more about how they came to choose aviation as a career. We ran the feature during Women’s History Month.”

To view the winning work please click here.


View More Employee Communications Awards 2011 Winners.

Visit Ragan.com/Awards to learn more about awards opportunities.